SUMMARY / BOTTOM-LINE
My opinion is that Showgirls is brilliantly scripted, cast and acted, and thoroughly entertaining. My impression is that this film was created for the love of the craft, perhaps never intended to be a 'blockbuster'.
Showgirls portrays materialism in a highly refined form, in the community surrounding erotic show business. This superficial society is portrayed brilliantly without moralising, without judgement, without sentimentality. It is a film about messed-up people living messed-up lives and the film doesn't pretend that the characters are anything other than messed-up people. As such, the film doesn't offer an epic battle of good against evil, nor pit some sweet damsel against dark forces and have her triumph against all odds because of her inner virtue. This isn't a philosophical film in which a spiritually deep and virtuous maiden, wise beyond her years, struggles to retain her dignity and honesty amidst cruel and unfair circumstances. This isn't a pretentious film with a nauseating, fashionably progressive political message masquerading as a heart-warming, happily-ending story. There are no deep characters in the film because it is a portrayal of a society composed entirely of shallow people engaged in the carnal pursuit of fame, sex, money and power, and of people who use one another and discard one another without once questioning the morality or advisability of such conduct. There is no magical ending ... no wedding, no lesson learned, no apologies, no reconciliation.
In other words, unlike many other films, Showgirls isn't a contemporary fairy tale.
Every character, from the glamorous leading dancers, to the drunken lechers is believable. Every significant character in the film, whether he/she be rich or poor, successful or cast aside, is motivated by base desires. All of them are trying to make something of their lives -- to succeed -- yet none of them has the wisdom or insight or virtue to measure success in terms of relationships or any form of absolute morality. There is no hero or heroine in this film; there is nobody to cheer for. Even Molly -- the seamstress who initially seems humble, kind and sensible -- is found to be foolishly and dangerously starstruck. There are no complex, growing relationships, because this is a film about people who are all far too emotionally damaged to sustain a deep and complex relationship. The film doesn't offer lazy cliches of wicked, heartless corporate managers taking advantage of the innocent and helpless little people, nor of kind-hearted girls struggling to love cruel and vicious men. There are no 'innocent victims' to feel sorry for, nor utterly vile people to hate. Instead we are given an entire cast of pitiful users and abusers; people who, regardless of gender, vocation or material wealth, are all equally lacking deep virtue and who are all inclined to chase glitter and to trample one another underfoot if it might lead to personal advantage. Almost everybody has a facade, pretending to be what they are not. Lies and fakery abound; off-stage as well as on-stage, everything is a show, and everybody is putting on an act at least some of the time.
The leading character is Nomi Malone; a superficial girl, not particularly bright or well-educated. She is running away from a broken family, petty crime and prostitution, trying to avoid arrest for previous offences, and trying to lift herself above wretched circumstances. The actress, Miss Elizabeth Berkeley, does a superb job of portraying Nomi's adolescent turbulence, immaturity, aggressiveness, ignorance, insecurity, amorality, seething sexuality, youthful energy and naively misplaced optimism. Adding to the difficulty of the role are the dances, sex and nudity. Miss Berkeley spends a large portion of the film barely clothed or naked and the high-energy dance routines are properly choreographed and genuinely performed. Her performance is compelling, convincing and courageous.
As a piece of cinematic art Showgirls presents sensuality and sex without being either prudish or pornographic. Despite the sex and nudity, it isn't really an erotic film or a film about sex but rather a film about the false promise of glittery things, the futility of idolising fame, money, power, sex or the people who might have such things. It is about broken, superficial people attempting to gratify their lusts for fame, sex, money or significance. If there is any deep meaning accompanying this film it is perhaps to be found in the reactions of the audience and particularly the critics who seem to have watched the film through a fog of fashionably pretentious preconceptions about human society and human nature, about how a film should be made and acted, and about what a plot should or should not contain.
I disagree entirely with the people who have said "Its so bad its good", or that its "camp" or "misogynistic". As far as I am concerned, Showgirls is a very honest and straightforward film; a grand stage on which are paraded superficiality, sensuality and stupidity. It is seedy, sordid and showy, and it is a superb work of acting, art and cinema.