Sunday, May 12, 2013

SHOWGIRLS 2: PENNY'S FROM HEAVEN (2011)

It's Mother's Day here in the champion of countries, America, so it seems inappropriate to dwell on silent horror from the 1920s.  Something more femininely mystiqual is needed, something that encapsulates and celebrates the accomplishments of women throughout our great society.


If you are reading this, I know that you didn't write off the original SHOWGIRLS, but most people who aren't us did.  Moms and other ladies stayed away, judging this book by its cover, as they love to do.  Those who attended generally had the same reaction, as they bought a ticket for an erotic epic and got a movie whose glamorous heroine vomits in a parking lot ten minutes after the movie starts.  SHOWGIRLS was exceedingly carny in that it promised glitz and ritz and delivered all that, but mostly in a loud, screeching, satirical way that only weirdos and drag queens seemed to get.


You'd expect a sequel to SHOWGIRLS to maybe be a less cagey, more straightforward Cinemaxical experience, probably just bland erotica.  But SHOWGIRLS 2 ups the ante on the first film's surrealist tendencies.  Watching it is as close as you're going to get to having a mental breakdown or doing powerful hallucinogens without actually doing such.  Even the premise is insane.  Minor characters Jimmy and Penny move to starring roles in this; no Elizabeth Berkley, no Gina Gershon, no Kyle MacLaghlan.  The Jimmy/Penny baby which was a throwaway subplot in the first movie gets sent to live on an aunt's farm or something, then Penny follows her dream of dancing on a public-access dance show.

Some of this is a little more obviously intended to be comedic than SHOWGIRLS, which was kind of sly, at least in the beginning.  It probably had to be, because SHOWGIRLS 2 looks to have been made on 2% of the budget of SHOWGIRLS.  It's shot in corridors and outside dark barns, on cameras that definitely did not cost tens of thousands of dollars.  The frugal look is going to keep the haters further at bay, since they only like films that look like glittering Versace pieces like THE GREAT GATSBY 3D, but I think it meshes well with the theme of fame and fortune and the  struggle of the dumb to get there.


So what is this SHOWGIRLS 2 about?  A: a lot of things, a whole lot.  Penny befriends-beenemys near-cougar Katia, who is taking the "star dancer" spot on the Star Dancer Show.  Along the way, Penny ends up getting duped into prostitution, gets attacked by a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, and learns about Norse sacrifice rituals, snuff films, and Madame Blavatsky.  Assured by Jimmy that she needs professional dance training (Alvin Ally, Juilliard), she gets Katia to teach her ballet in her kitchen.


I am not even making any of this up.  There's also a maid who wears lingerie while cleaning and goes to school to become a detective.  Despite the gadding about of the plot, this all feels very Showgirls-y, mostly because Rena Riffel has such a handle on Penny as a character.  Plus everybody drinks champagne all the time and wears multiple pounds of makeup, EVEN THE HOMELESS.


Riffel wrote/directed this herself and got funding to do it through Kickstarter, so that we the audience could reap the benefits of living in the future.  Rena's definitely the MVP here and that's probably true in life as well.  No woman who can incorporate such a wildly diverging set of topics into a SHOWGIRLS sequel could be called anything less than a goddess.  People are going to overlook the camera choices and blocking here because this all looks cheap as hell, but Riffel did a fine job at ensuring things look interesting.  Her acting is supreme for the type of film this is, too.  I almost fell down in the shower this morning because I was still laughing about...

JIMMY: You're not dumb, you just play dumb.
PENNY: Like a possum?
JIMMY: No...a possum plays dead.  Not dumb.


If this movie has a flaw, it's one that it shares with SHOWGIRLS...at well over two hours, there's just a little too much of it.  Movies like this need to hit and run, and SHOWGIRLS 2 starts to sputter, even with the plot's tortured twisting.  Still, Rena Riffel deserves Mom of the Year credits for giving birth to this unique experience and you deserve to see it.  Go get what you deserve, in rental or digital download form, at Amazon.

"It's better to be a starfucker than a not-a-starfucker, right?"

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