Cinema Treasure Guilty Pleasure: Gina Gershon

Time for the second installment of my series Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure!  As a reminder, here’s what the series is all about: The first film I discuss is one of arguably obvious cinematic merit–the sort of thing taught in Introduction to Film courses, featured on “Top 100 Yadda Yadda” lists, or winning awards at fancy events that include speeches and extensive song-and-dance numbers.  The second film I discuss is one that doesn’t have the cinematic gravitas of, say, Citizen Kane, but that remains a personal favorite for other reasons: cult films, films from my youth, or films simply so bad they’re good.

This week’s theme: The films of Gina Gershon.

Gina Gershon has been acting for a few decades now, and though she doesn’t often feature in a television show or film, she’s had quite a bit of success as a character actor.  In fact, she’s had small roles in a variety of well-known films, among them Pretty in Pink, Cocktail, and The Player.

Cinema Treasure: Bound (1996), directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Starring: Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly, Joe Pantoliano, and Christopher Meloni.

Gershon plays Corky, an ex-con who enters into a dangerous affair with her neighbor, Violet (Jennifer Tilly), whose boyfriend works for the mob.  Corky and Violet concoct a scheme to steal money from Violet’s boyfriend and runaway together.  Naturally, nothing goes according to plan and the violence begins. 

Bound is at its heart a stylized neo-noir, but as Roger Ebert noted, it is also “a caper movie, a gangster movie, a sex movie and a slapstick comedy” all rolled into one.  The film is a hell of a lot of fun to watch because its neo-noir cinematography is infused with an impressive blend of humor, thrills, and sex.  Bound is considered one of the first American mainstream films to portray a gay relationship on screen without the characters’ homosexuality being central to the plot.  It was praised by many for its realistic and steamy portrayal of gay sex. Noted feminist scholar and sex educator Susie Bright served as a sex consultant on the film and choreographed the love scenes (she also has a cameo).

Things I love: The sizzling chemistry between Gershon and Tilly; the complex and entertaining plot; the blend of humor and thrills.

Guilty Pleasure: Showgirls (1995); directed by Paul Verhoeven.                                      Starring: Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Gershon.

Showgirls is probably one of the most maligned films of all time (with Gigli close behind, of course).  The *cough* plot follows a young drifter named Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) as she becomes a Las Vegas showgirl and faces off against Cristal Connors (Gershon), the star of the dance show “Goddess.”

Showgirls is the definition of a guilty pleasure–it is so incredibly horrible that it’s fun to watch.  The script is embarrassing and laughable, and so is most of the acting.  Berkley over-emotes and chews every line, while Kyle MacLachlan looks confused by his Flock of Seagulls haircut.  Gershon is pretty much the saving grace, as she takes her role into full-on campy territory, while everyone else around her seems to be taking themselves way too seriously.  Gershon’s knowing smirk and campy demeanor make her a lot of fun to watch. Between the insane script, the plethora of g-string clad ladies, and the unexpected number of times Elizabeth Berkley’s character throws herself against a car, Showgirls is the perfect movie for a Bad Movie Night with your friends.

Things I love: The number of times Berkley says “It doesn’t suck”; the surprisingly fun to watch dance sequences; the endlessly quotable insanity of the script.

12 thoughts on “Cinema Treasure Guilty Pleasure: Gina Gershon

  1. Great double feature! A pair of latter-day homoerotic classics. Bound is certainly the better movie, with its twisty plotting and vicious performances (and pre-Matrix Wachowski style!), but Showgirls… oh, man. It’s just so endlessly watchable. And quotable. Everybody got AIDS and shit!

  2. Whooooaaaaa, I’ve never seen Bound. A pre-Matrix Wachowskis doing a sexy noir thriller? With Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon? Sign me UP. That was a sweet trailer, too.

    I haven’t seen Showgirls since around the time it came out. I was in middle school, so all I cared about was the boobies. I’d watch it again and probably get a lot of laughs out of it.

    Showing an actor/actress in the highs and lows of their career is a cool idea, by the way.

  3. Gershon’s been mostly a waste, if you ask me. I think she had a lot of potential, but either made bad decisions or just wasn’t in demand by the right people at the right time. Obviously, these films mark good highs and lows (I saw Bound a loooong time ago, but remember digging it as well – Joey Pants is in it!), but what else of consequence has she done? I barely recall her in the other films you mentioned. A shame, too, because I used to have a huge crush on her…well, until I discovered that she was unable to close her mouth. It’s kinda creepy, really. 😉

    • Well, she hasn’t made a huge splash in movies since, but she’s had a lot of small roles in both TV and movieland. I think she doesn’t get noticed a lot, but she just attended the premiere for “Killer Joe”, a Matthew McConaughey film directed by William Friedkin, so she might be making a comeback. Besides, even if she peaked with “Bound,” it’s still a compelling and fun performance.

  4. I am an unabashed Paul Verhoeven fan and have to admit to indulging in the guilty pleasures that “Showgirls” offer. The film’s stock has actually risen over the years and netted the studio a fortune in rentals and purchases. I haven’t seen “Bound” since it was first released, but I definitely need to give it a re-watch to investigate the theory about Gershon’s mouth.

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