While it went down in infamy, Showgirls was best remembered for its unflinchingly provocative look at the seedy underbelly of a Vegas dancer’s journey. Even to this day, it retains its defenders, those who can look past some of its most striking elements to the film’s intended purpose. Yet for those who thought the Verhoeven feature was their ticket to the big time, all that remains is a pile of ridicule and missed opportunities. Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, a fellow actress from the original, Rena Riffel, managed to raise 30,000 to make her sequel, to the film that launched her career In Showgirls 2 Penny’s From Heaven.
Dreaming of Hollywood’s inviting limelight, Vegas dancer Penny hitches a ride with a cast of intriguing characters, on her quest of leaving Las Vegas to star on a peculiar prime time dancing show, Star Dancer. Auditions are on the West Coast, and during her time there, Penny will experience it all, from cult-like organisations to the decadences of the top. As her dreams come crashing down while further pursues the path to stardom.
While it’s clear they didn’t have the resources of the first, they more than makeup for it with determination. Efforts to evoke the casual titillation of its forbearer, are more than just abundant; with such examples as a character totally ignoring her maid’s request for payments and then having a pillow fight, feels like an explicit call out to some of the more explicit moments from Showgirls. Kevin McCloud provides the score for much of this production, with his royalty-free tunes a staple of practically every content creator. Not using Riffel who helped out with the soundtrack for the first film does feel like a missed opportunity, but with the leading lights on her, I can see why.
The film will go out of its way to emulate the more memorable moments of Showgirls but does so with the tongue firmly in their cheeks. Pool-based liaisons may lose the glamour, but pick up a lot of comic appeal, and lines are repeated verbatim but recontextualised into new scenes. Callbacks to both lines and other cast members are commonplace here, such inclusions give the impression that this film is a testament to the fans, ones that are more than willing to be in on the joke.
Cashing in on the camp value of its prequel’s reputation, a change in circumstance, and a dream just not entirely realised, Penny’s From Heaven is a fascinating film, despite lacking the resources to compete. Its circumstance gives Showgirls 2 a more plucky edge, one that feels more liberated to be a subversive homage to one of Rena Riffel most recognisable roles. I would say that fans should check it out, but that would be redundant, as it is fans that brought this film into being. Its constant references feel like it was designed to be played at conventions, spawning a myriad of in-jokes much akin to Troll 2 or The Room. Penny’s From Heaven does remind us that the path to see your name in lights is indeed littered with precious metals.
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