NYFF: Is ‘Passion’ Poised to Eclipse The Camp Classic ‘Showgirls’?
Brian De Palma’s Passion, as alluded to in this review, teeters on a level of badness that, in turn, becomes camp. This female-vs.-female rivalry film with strong Sapphic overtones and a constant back and forth of ludicrous backstabbing can’t help but draw comparisons to Paul Verhoeven’s “epic,” Showgirls.
Without revealing too many spoilers, below is a list of categories with which to pit the two films against each other in a brutal cat fight.
Will the newcomer reach the near-impossible Razzie-winning, midnight screening heights of the Paul Verhoeven disaster? Let’s find out with these seven totally scientific, head-to-head category comparisons!
Round One: Alpha Bitch
Showgirls: Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), bedazzled cowboy hat-wearing, pert nipple-bearing celebrity Las Vegas showgirl. Crystal goes out of her way to put Nomi in her place from insulting her nail art to suggesting her for prostitution at a car show. Gershon chews scenery on epic levels (and presumably knows that she is in a bad movie).
Passion: Christine (Rachel McAdams), trouser-wearing, perfectly coiffed powerful ad executive. Christine goes out of her way to put Isabelle in her place, from various forms of email forgery and video exhibition. McAdams chews scenery and camps up her performance accordingly.
Round Two: Ingénue
Showgirls: Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), a girl of unknown origin who comes to Las Vegas to make it big as a dancer. She rises to the top quickly due to her uncanny “heat” and her keen ability to “thrust it.” She is also willing to eliminate her alpha bitch, Cristal, in order to do so. Berkley is a clueless actress and is unable to even eat a hamburger like a normal person on camera (which, for this movie… bring it!).
Passion: Isabelle James (Noomi Rapace), a girl of unknown origin who is hired by Christine to mastermind a new smartphone campaign. Isabelle rises to the top with her ingenuity but mostly because of her willingness to eliminate her alpha bitch, Christine. Rapace is good actress but doesn’t chew scenery – much unlike Berkley, her performance isn’t easily mockable.
Round Three: Shared Male Sex Partner
Showgirls: Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan), impresario at the Stardust Hotel. Zack is Cristal’s boyfriend (albeit on a casual level) even though he has sex with Nomi. His motivations are duplicitous and he sports a lush, ’90s skatecut – he is not above covering up illegal happenings, like, you know, rape.
Passion: Dirk (Paul Anderson), powerful executive at Christine’s company and also her boyfriend (albeit on a casual level), even though he has sex with Isabelle. A sexy British ginger, he is not above illegal happenings like taking part in Ponzi schemes.
Round Four: Kinky Sex Scene
Showgirls: Nomi and Zack have sex in his cheesy, neon-palm-tree-lit pool. Nomi attaches herself to Zack and facing him, bucks her torso around crazily into the water, like she is a dolphin or an alien. Or an alien dolphin.
Passion: Christine and Dirk get weird in the sack – Dirk wears a white mask of Christine’s face, complete with an attached blonde wig. Other stuff like blindfolds are involved… pretty insane.
Round Five: Girl-on-Girl Action
Showgirls: Much flirtation between Cristal and Nomi – Cristal lustfully watches Nomi give Zack a lap dance, the two almost kiss during dance rehearsal, and then they full on make out near the film’s end.
Passion: Oh, so many instances. Christine and Isabelle make out a few times and flirt a lot. There’s also a third lady around, Isabelle’s assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth) who harbors feelings for her boss.
Round Six: Double-Crossing Treachery
Showgirls: Marbles are used on stage so a girl falls while dancing, Cristal tricks Nomi into getting involved in a prostitution situation, Nomi has sex with Zack to be Cristal’s understudy, Nomi pushes Cristal down the stairs… and even more.
Passion: Christine takes credit for Isabelle’s commercial idea, Isabelle then makes it viral to beat her to the punch… without giving too much away, most of this movie is non-stop double crossing.
Winner: Showgirls… please, Nomi pushes Cristal down the stairs.
Round Seven: Parking Lot Freak Out
Showgirls: When Nomi first hitchhikes to Las Vegas, the man she rides with leaves with her suitcases. She then has a poorly acted hissy fit (kicking, etc) in the parking lot when she realizes the car left with her stuff.
Passion: After one of the many times Christine threatens Isabelle, Isabelle has an epic parking lot freak out, backing into a pole, shattering her windshield, kicking the outside, getting out and crying… then the sprinkler goes off.
Showgirls wins out in 4 out of 7 categories, but Passion is only just trailing behind. Will Passion become a camp classic in years to come? It’s hard to say. While it has the prestige of being directed by Brian De Palma and of starring A-list actresses, its content is fairly ridiculous. There is a heavily-featured sex mask, after all.
It will, undoubtedly, be included at camp classic screenings, but it might take a while for its campiness to marinate in pop culture. Passion is campy, but Showgirls is beyond campy, thanks largely to Elizabeth Berkley. Cristal and Nomi have a pop culture rivalry for the ages that while they come close, Christine and Isabelle can’t quite match their hilarious badness.
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