Lilith Likes to Watch - Double Feature! Showgirls & Gia

Welcome to the very first Lilith Likes to Watch Double Feature, wherein I take two movies that are similar in some way and talk about them. For this illustrious occasion I've chosen very special movies. One is an infamous skin-flick that made us laugh in shock and awe. The other is a little known time capsule of a famous woman's life. I hope you enjoy...

Title: Showgirls
Year: 1995
Starring: Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, Kyle MacLachlan
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Synopsis: Nomi, a young drifter, arrives in Las Vegas to become a dancer and soon sets about clawing and pushing her way to become the top of the Vegas showgirls. - Via IMDB
Lilith's Notes: It is the highest grossing NC-17 film of all time.

"You can't touch me, but I can touch you. And I'd really like to touch you."

Ah, fame. Many want it, few people will achieve it. Movies love to tell tales about the rise and fall and resurrection of famous people. Porn and skin-flicks are no different.

Perhaps the most famous-slash-infamous erotic tale of a rising starlet is Showgirls, the 1995 Elizabeth Berkley vehicle, directed by social satirist filmmaker Paul Verhoeven. I was a young teen when this movie came out and holy shit did I want to see it. Jessie Spano in a porno?! Yes, please. I had to see it, I had to see how excited and scared she was. (Jokes only 90's kids would get.)

It has been stated that Showgirls is an extreme morality tale, only, it can't be, when your main character is never really moral.

Nomi Malone is a tough, street-wise girl who sets her sights on being a dancer in the on Las Vegas' greatest stage. She's a bitch to everyone, is constantly told she's the best dancer when all she does is kind of flail about, and has the kind of ideas of  sexy that a 12 year old boy who's never seen a boobie might find sexy. And Gina Gershon is extremely hot in it, nobody eye-fucks like Gina Gershon.

I think a case can be made that this is really Crystal Conner's morality tale, we just sort of came in too late and on the wrong focus.

Crystal Conners was a poor girl subsisting on cat food who came to Vegas with dreams of stardom. Eventually she pushed her rival down the stairs and became the star of the show. The thing is, Crystal Conners has small beats of being a genuine person, empathetic, understanding. In fact, Nomi was unnecessarily hostile to Crystal when they first met. Nomi has to be an idiot to think that what she does at the strip club and what the showgirls do with a multi-million dollar production are the same thing.

Crystal sees Nomi as a threat and also as an object of desire and something to control. She sends Nomi to whore herself to some rich businessmen, thereby proving that she's fallen even farther from the sweet country girl she used to be. When she breaks her hip after Nomi pushes her, she realizes that she had figuratively and literally fallen too far and got what she deserved.

By contrast, everything Nomi does is a flat plain. She's the exact same throughout the entire movie. She doesn't grow or change or have a character arc. When she pushes Crystal down the steps we're not shocked because That's Our Nomi.

But, remember how I said this was directed by Paul Verhoeven? The man who directed Robocop, a wacky take on American culture, and hyper-violence normalized, and Starship Troopers which satirized propaganda and pro-war gusto? He probably went into this movie thinking "What if we watch a girl's rise to fame, only the girl is a god damned psychopath?" Sort of like that assessment that people high up on the corporate ladder have psychopathic tendencies, but transplant it to a Las Vegas act.

Let's make the sexy unsexy, let's make the protagonist the antagonist, let's make everyone a vile human being and let's make the innocent get raped.

Because, yeah, that happens.

I think through this lens, Showgirls kind of works, but that doesn't make it a good movie. On the other hand, if you have to explain the joke, you either haven't told the joke correctly, or the joke just sucks.

As for me? I find this movie to be a fun, guilty pleasure. It's a cultural touchstone in porn, one I was actually alive for. I get to say "I was there."

As a tale of a girl with big dreams in a big city, reaching for the moon and landing among the stars, it fails. This is the erotic version of "Get a bunch of friends and beer and watch it."

If you want a movie that more or less succeeds at the same tale, do I have a suggestion for you...


Title: Gia
Year: 1998
Starring: Angelia Jolie, Mercedes Ruehl, Faye Dunaway, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mila Kunis
Director: Michael Cristofer
Synopsis: The story of the life of Gia Carangi, a top fashion model from the late 1970s, from her meteoric rise to the forefront of the modeling industry, to her untimely death. - Via IMDB
Lilith's Notes: Essential viewing for any fan of Angelina Jolie

"I do be the piddiest, piddiest girl, I do be dat."

I came across Gia one night while channel surfing. Suddenly a girl was pressed naked against a fence, having a photoshoot, and the shot was black and white. The girl was familiar to me, but I couldn't place her. Near the end of the movie I realized who it was.

It was a young Angelina Jolie. I was glued to the screen.

On my 19th birthday I bought the DVD. I have watched this film countless times.

Gia is the riveting biopic of Gia Marie Carangi, a street-wise girl who's natural beauty helps her become one of most famous American supermodels of the 70's and 80's. Through the movie we delve into her insecurities, her succumbing to pressure, her inability to cope with pain. She's surrounded by cruelty and enablers, and sinks further and further down into addiction.Yet, she still manages to retain a sliver of her good heart, even when she's betraying those she loves and love her. Wounded innocence weaves its way throughout the film.

It has a sweet, sensual f/f love scene and some great acting. Some interesting editing choices are really impactful, like during the segment featuring an argument between Gia and her mother. There are heart-wrenching moments that don't linger on the event but rather show the aftermath and somehow that makes it more horrific.

Then again, I'm biased because Gia is probably one of my top 20 favourite movies, erotic or not, and it's certainly in my top 5 erotic films, soft-core, hard-core or otherwise.


NEXT TIME: Hey, the neighbourhood ladies are all abuzz because Abigail Lesley Is Back in Town.