You Don’t Nomi is a documentary about one of the most infamous movies of all time. When Showgirls was released in 1995, controversy and interest was high. The film ended up being a commercial and critical bomb, pretty much ending the career of Star Elizabeth Berkley. So what makes it so popular today?
Most documentaries follow a standard formula of narration, talking head, footage. This is especially true of docs about movies since so many people tend to be involved and there is usually plenty of video. You Don’t Nomi goes with a different approach. It is exclusively stills, video archives from the time interlaced with actual scenes from the film. All interviews are either voiceovers are were shot at the time of the original release. It is an interesting take that differentiates it from other docs about film.
It becomes apparent early on this was a wise decision. Anything relating to the film can be immediately shown. This is funnier and leads to more “a-ha” moments. For example, one critic discusses how Showgirls director Paul Verhoeven used sexual violence in many of his films. Instead of watching someone talk, You Don’t Nomi shows various clips from differing movies that seem to illustrate this point. It can also be used in less serious situations. Many times throughout the film, newspaper clippings trashing the movie are shown along with a relevant scene from the actual movie.
You Don’t Nomi is primarily a love letter to Showgirls, but that does not prevent it from listing both sides of the argument. This is not just limited to tongue in cheek “how silly is that” criticism. One person talks about how Verhoeven is horrible at writing women, while other discusses how he writes strong female characters. Showing two sides of an argument also lends more credence to the documentary. (It is also another moment that uses scenes from previous movies to illustrate both points.)
In the decades since its initial release, Showgirls has become something of a cult favorite. There has been a musical and it is a popular film among the drag community. You Don’t Nomi has the right idea in trying to discuss the overall impact of the film, but the execution is off. Around the midway point, things start to feel unfocused. The documentary jumps from the actual movie, to its popularity at midnight showings, back to the movie, to how it changed someone’s life, back to the movie, to Saved by the Bell. These moments tend to run long also.
When You Don’t Nomi is at its best when it focuses on the subject of its admiration. There is deep analysis that one would never expect to be gleaned from Showgirls. There is talk of the creative use of mirrors, the significance of Nomi Malone’s name, and the odd tropes that can be found throughout the film. It is more engaging than it has any right to be.
You Don’t Nomi is a way too interesting documentary about the life, death, and afterlife of Showgirls. Using a numerous interviews and an distinctive take on the documentary genre, watching You Don’t Nomi will make you want to see Showgirls. And that is the biggest compliment one can give.