Pussy Riot May Star in 'Spring Breakers' Sequel: Will 'The Second Coming' Be Feminist? — UPDATE

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 20: Members of protest group Pussy Riot arrive for a press conference on February 20, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Source: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

When James Franco denounced the forthcoming Spring Breakers sequel, accusing it of having no "reason d'être [sic]" aside from a quick buck, Spring Breakers: The Second Coming producers hastily fired back with some fightin' words — calling the actor a pedant and a sell-out, in so many words — and now, they've moved straight to actions. In an effort to reclaim some artistic cred, producer Chris Hanley announced that during the Cannes Film Festival, director Jonas Åkerlund would meet with Pussy Riot — AKA, Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alyokhina, the now-infamous Russian activist punk group — to discuss the possibility of their starring in the film.

While this news is likely both exciting and somewhat baffling for Pussy Riot fans, one preliminary question jumps to the fore: Can Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina even act? To hear Hanley describe the filmmakers' rationale, however, it seems like the Riot girls' involvement would be primarily symbolic — and, once again, rooted in proving detractors like Franco wrong: “Since there are some suggestions in the reporting on Second Coming that it is a ‘weak’ or ‘lame’ sequel, the new Irvine Welsh [writer of the novel Trainspotting] screenplay has the strongest feminine voice of the Spring Breakers characters so far," he told Variety. "And Nadya and Maria of Pussy Riot are a powerful new voice of world feminism. We are all into radical innovations.”

And what, pray tell, does "radical innovation" mean for a film set in the bikini-clad perma-buzzed world of spring break (woo!)? Hanley reports: “Second Coming addresses societal limitations, women having a voice to decide on the rights of their own bodies against moral limitations by religious, militant cult groups, in a spring break setting, where our Spring Breakers girls take power into their own hands once again!”

To which I say a hesitant "... Cool?" I mean, who wouldn't give three cheers or more for showcasing women having a voice, or Pussy Riot getting a gig — but you have to wonder, is spring break really a fitting place for it all? Can these filmmakers compellingly and tactfully walk the line between empowerment and exploitation? And with a predominantly male writer-director-producer team to boot? (Roberta Hanley, co-producer and spouse of Chris, is the sole female.) Certainly, men are capable of crafting compelling female narratives, no question — otherwise, with the dearth of women working behind the camera, we'd hardly ever see any. But wouldn't a great place to start "addressing women's societal limitations" be to hire a few more in the film's high-level creative positions? Enter Pussy Riot, I suppose — though the stunt casting, even of awesome feminist artists, still doesn't quite seem to cut it.

Plus, of course, Pussy Riot's involvement isn't yet in stone: Some sources suggest that the offer might just be a publicity ploy, while updated reports note that the band may not even make it to Cannes for the meeting regardless. Still, let's hope that Hanley's film stays true to its word — that even if the band backs out, Spring Breakers: The Second Coming is genuinely successful in its radical ambitions — if only, at the absolute least, to rub that "reason d'être" in Franco's face.


UPDATE: Turns out the skeptics were right. Pussy Riot took to Twitter and flatly denied the rumors that they agreed to talks about involvement of any kind with Spring Breakers: The Second Coming. And, in their continually outspoken tradition, managed to get a jab at Russian politics in there while they were at it.

[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/pussyrrriot/statuses/468081255251460096]
[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/pussyrrriot/statuses/468083780075663362]

If Hanley is desperate enough for good PR to pull such a stunt, that can only mean this film is either going to be a product of self-hype and delusion (much like, of course, spring break itself) — or, just maybe, surprisingly brash and genius. Only time — and, likely, more press brouhaha — will tell.



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