Showgirls 2 -- Penny's From Heaven: Rena Riffel's New Spoof of Paul Verhoeven's, Err, Classic
Everyone remembers the infamous scene from 1995 cult classic Showgirls in which Cristal Connors (actress Gina Gershon) gazes into the eyes of Nomi Malone (actress Elizabeth Berkley) and says, "You see, darlin', you are a whore."
Though the notoriously so-awful-it's-great film seems like a parody these days, there's a new film spoof in town, and this one's purposeful. Showgirls 2 -- Penny's From Heaven, the brainchild of actress Rena Riffel (who played the supporting role of Penny in the original Showgirls), which had a one-night screening last night at the Laemmle Sunset 5. This time around, the word "whore" is said so often (five times within the first 18 minutes of the film) it could spawn a new drinking game.
In 2005, ten years after director Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls played to horrible reviews, Riffel decided to spoof and pay homage to the original film. Not only did Riffel write the campy Showgirls 2 but also she gave herself the leading role, and she edited, directed and produced it. Calling it "dark satire" at the film's first public screening last night in Hollywood, Riffel says director Paul Verhoeven has been supportive of the endeavor, and she describes her film as Showgirls meets Black Swan meets Sunset Boulevard.
With intentionally ridiculous dialogue ("You're not dumb. You're just playing dumb." "Like a possum?" "No, a possum plays dead.") and seventies porn production values, Showgirls 2 - Penny's From Heaven is a romp through a warped world of manipulative characters and cruel, competitive dancers.
As Las Vegas stripper Penny Slot, Riffel plays a daft but ambitious erotic dancer. Penny's had a tough life. Her twin sister died when a radio fell into her bubble bath. Penny wears her dead twin around her neck in the form of a diamond that was made out of her cremated sister's ashes.
But wait. It gets worse than losing your sister and turning her into jewelry. Penny's daughter was removed from her care and placed with Penny's mother. But screw it. Who needs a daughter when you have dreams? Nothing could kill Penny's spirit. Penny aims to leave Las Vegas and stripping, because she is a dancer. Not a stripper. Not a whore.
Penny's boyfriend Jimmy (Glen Plummer, from the original Showgirls), is a small time drug dealer who makes t-shirts with stupid phrases. He advises Penny that she needs to perfect her dancing technique by taking formal ballet lessons. When Penny meets Daryl Smith, a Hollywood movie producer (whose business card lists his job as "Hollywood Movie Producer"), he gives Penny the push she needs to leave Nevada.
(Some spoilers coming, by the way. We're going to tell you the whole story so you don't have to watch it.)
So Penny tries to hitchhike to California with a guy in a Porsche named Jeff (Dewey Weber, also from Showgirls.) Jeff asks her why she's going to Hollywood. Penny says, "I'm going to be a star." He says, "Star? Fucker?" He then goes on to explain that he's not a star fucker, citing Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, the Kardashians and Cher as examples of stars he wouldn't fuck.
Of course, after the pair do a bunch of blow and mess around, Jeff leaves her stranded in the desert. Penny does what any stripper abandoned in the desert would do. She wanders over to a trailer park where she meets a group of bizarre people, including a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. But you know how it goes when a stripper on her way to Hollywood meets shady folks at a desert trailer park. Marilyn murders everyone and tries to kill Penny. Penny kills Marilyn. Penny takes the dead clan's money and continues her journey to LA-LA-Land.
In Los Angeles, Penny meets Godhart (Peter Stickles), a struggling violinist who whores out women as escorts. Penny doesn't know he's pimping women though. Godhart hits on her and she is smitten. But the honeymoon ends quickly when it turns out that Godhart is already engaged to Katya (actress Shelley Michelle), a prima ballerina who is mean to Penny when they meet.
When Godhart brings Penny to a party and she is introduced to a handsome count, she falls in love with Count Vladimir instantly and they have sex in a garden. Six days later, Godhart gives Penny the two thousand dollars she earned as a hired escort. What? Sex for money? Penny was tricked. Penny is outraged. "I've managed to make an honest living in a G-string," she says.
Poor Penny. Her dream is to end up as the lead dancer on the hit television show Star Dancer. But her moves just aren't good enough. When Katya suddenly warms up to Penny, Katya gives Penny the ballet lessons she so desperately needs. And they dance. And they bond. And they drink lots of alcohol. And they eat wieners together. And they frolic in a pool topless, pouring champagne on each other's breasts. And they lick each other.
But wait. This relationship is not solid. Why? Because Katya is batshit crazy. She becomes jealous of Penny. When Penny comes to visit Katya who is starring in Star Dancer, Katya flips out and rubs cold cream all over her face and the dressing room mirror while wailing like an Emperor penguin whose chick didn't survive the 70 mile walk back to the sea after its birth.
Godhart then rents out Penny to the producer, former star and network executive of Star Dancer. Penny is a big hit at the orgy. Soon after, nutbar Katya apologizes to Penny for her deranged behavior. Unaware of Penny's Star Dancer sexcapade, Katya sets up Penny with an audition for the hit show. Penny lands a role, but now Godhart is angry. He wants his cut of the money. After all, he set up the sexual liaison which he says was her true "audition."
Now Katya is mad. Again. She didn't know Penny screwed her way on to the show. But neither did poor Penny. Sure, she had sex with a bunch of people involved with the show for money, but whatever. She thought she legitimately danced her way into the show at the audition. Anyway, Penny has a problem with her work papers, so she can't continue to do the show. And Katya is now too old to be the star.
Then Katya's pendulum of crazy swings the other way once again and she calms down and invites Penny to join her on her birthday. Of course, the unstable Katya freaks out about aging and pummels her birthday cake into her plate. The dysfunctional pair move into a motel together. They are alone in this world and they need each other to survive. Except Katya is certifiable. She is cruel to poor Penny, always taunting her that she is just a whore and that she can't really dance. Penny is hurt. Penny is angry.
When Katya lands a gig as a dancer at a tiki bar, Penny unleashes her revenge on the psycho bitch. She rubs petroleum jelly on the soles of Katya's shoes. Uh-oh. Big fall. Katya's dead. Oh well. Penny takes over and lives out her dreams, a star dancer in a show. Finally! Penny is living the life she has always wanted. The life she deserves. She is the star.
But wait. The past becomes present. A Las Vegas homicide detective shows up. Referring to the desert murders, he says, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and he hauls Penny off to a Vegas jail. After six months languishing away in prison, Penny is released when her former cleaning lady who was taking detective classes solves the case. Um, ok.
Done with the West Coast, Penny decides to head to Broadway. Her ex Jimmy is now assisting an Alvin Ailey dance instructor in New York. Of course, to get to Manhattan she needs a ride. A girl can't just pirouette across the country, you know. With perfect timing, Porsche driving, coke snorting Jeff shows back up just as Penny is hitchhiking. This time, Penny is surely off to a better life. Right? Let's hope so. Chick's been through some crazy shit.
So there it is kids. Don't give up your dreams. Do whatever you have to do to get on that stage. And don't forget to show us your tits.
Follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Los Angeles, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.