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Moviegoers Shed Different Lights on 'Showgirls' : The Joke Is on the Audience

October 02, 1995|VANDA KREFFT | Vanda Krefft is a former free-lance writer whose feature articles have appeared in many national magazines. She is also the former senior editor of Playgirl magazine. She is working on her first novel. and

No, no, no--Kenneth Turan has entirely missed the point of "Showgirls" ("The Naked Truth About 'Showgir" Calendar, Sept. 22), although that's understandable. At first I too thought the movie was shockingly stupid and boring. But then I realized, "Joe Eszterhas isn't that bad a writer." "Basic Instinct," "Jagged Edge" and "Flashdance" were slick, effective pieces of manipulation. And Paul Verhoeven, he's the guy who directed "Soldier of Orange." Suddenly, the truth hit me: "Showgirls" is a giant inside joke.

The filmmakers are really saying, "We're going to take $35 million from mainstream, high-profile Hollywood and turn out a completely worthless movie. In the roles of characters you're supposed to like, we're going to cast some of the dullest actors you've ever seen. Surely out there in the soft-core porno world there are performers with at least a few degrees of substance and dimension, but we don't want them. We will make the audience constantly strain to identify with the leads, but never will we satisfy that impulse. Why should we? Anybody who believes this movie's salacious hype enough to shell out $7.50 at the box office deserves to be punished.

"What's more, for the villainous roles, we will hire actors talented and accomplished enough to know better. Audiences will ask, 'Why is Kyle MacLachlan walking through the whole movie with his hair hanging down over one side of his face? Won't David Lynch hire him any more? Is Kyle a terror on the set? And yes, that is Alan Rachins from "L.A. Law"--not a bad toupee, either. Is post-TV series life really that hard? It's come to this for him?'

"Altogether audiences will marvel at our inverted, absurdist casting methods whereby we truly reveal the standards and values of Hollywood, which even more absurdly is the hand that has fed us and will continue to feed us rather than admit it was wrong."

"Showgirls' " story line similarly subverts reasonable and conventional experiences. It refuses to entertain. It refuses to instruct. It refuses to go anywhere emotionally. It is designed, I am convinced, so that the real theater will begin when at some variable point before the closing credits (depending on their capacity and determination for self-deception), audiences will jolt awake to their senses and stampede to the ticket window to demand their money back.

For these reasons, I commend Eszterhas, Verhoeven and company. But I still wish I'd stayed home and washed my hair instead.

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