Or, ‘”Girl”, he said,”at least you didn’t get crucified.”‘
SPOILERS!! If you want to go in clean then skip my intro and move straight into the review.
A user on Letterboxd said this about Holy Camp!:
I never knew I needed a Spanish, Catholic gay musical but here I am.
So you know it’s got to be good. Though perhaps having the heads up that it’s a gay film might ruin the reveal when it comes – because when it does come it is glorious and sweet and I don’t even care about the massive age difference because it is so pure. But don’t let me get carried away now, read away my pretties!
Holy Camp! (2017)
María and Susana, two rebellious teens spend their summer in a catholic camp. With music as their common denominator, teen rebellion and ecclesiastic order will collide, creating a hymn to freedom and first love.
First off this film is gloriously female and I love it for that. We’re offered four really fantastic and well-rounded characters to root for and it feels so refreshing – and while I guess you could say the story line revolves around a man (God), it’s all about these relationships, about love, friendship and searching for your calling in life, whatever that may be. I had all the feels, all the way through.
So María and Susanna (Macarena García and Anna Castillo) are at Catholic Camp for the Summer but they’re not letting that cramp their style. Party animals to the extreme they sneak out at night, take narcotics and dance the hours away to Latina electro in the club. Just watching them brings me out in hives but their clubbing experiences seem joyful. The girls are full of life and hope – but a few cracks begin to show when Susana meets a hot shot music producer who’s interested in meeting with the girls and potentially working with them (they’re a pop duo too).
María doesn’t feel as though their talents are ready for public consumption and when faced with meeting the producer for the first time, she bails, heading back to the camp alone. Oh and even before all of this, María is woken up by an elderly white guy singing ‘I Will Always Love You’ to her – so our girl is already feeling confused about life. Can’t blame her, eh?
Side note: If this film doesn’t make you want to rewatch The Bodyguard immediately, then are you even human?
Susana is not that stoked about being ditched but has set up a meeting at a big party with the producer for a later date. The pair unfortunately fall out when María tells Susana she’s delusional and that their group is immature and bound to make a fool of them. It’s time grow up basically.
It is heartbreaking to see the girls fight but it’s a necessary evil given the course both our central characters are on.
With the friendship on a rocky path, María continues to see the same old man, each time serenading her with Whitney songs and becomes convinced that she’s seeing God. Susana confides in Sister Milagros (Belén Cuesta) about the producer and this leads the lovely nun to ruminate on her own talents/unfulfilled potential. In a conversation with the awesome drug-dealing cook we learn that Milagros was on the cusp of her own singing success but it didn’t work out.
Milagros fantasises about her own moment in the spotlight via a surreal and wonderful sequence in the basement, which is overheard and witnessed by Susana, who is smoking outside. Meanwhile, both the girls have appeared on the radar of ferocious new Mother Superior (?) Bernarda (Gracia Olayo). She’s determined to whip these little troublemakers into shape, much to their chagrin. This changes a little when she learns that the girls are into music and she opens up to María about a flash mob she’s choreographed.
Side note: One of the best scenes features Bernada and Milagros singing and dancing together – and one of the lyrics made me snort out loud. It’s the one I used above as my ‘alternative’ title. I love these two so, so much.
María, in response to Bernada’s dance overtures, confides that she’s been seeing God. At first Bernada is quite in agreement that he is all around but when María insists that she is actually SEEING HIM, B sets about training her to find out what he wants from her in the best way possible. In contrast, Susana is shown making out with her boyfriend and showing off her own dance moves, presumably in preparation for the big party rapidly approaching.
When God appears again and María prays to him just as B has shown her, he scoffs at her and disappears. This devastates María and in the kerfuffle, her secret is outed to the other two women. While Milagros phones the Vatican, she laments her failure to connect properly with God. The girls sort of touch base about the party, with Susana saying she doesn’t want to go without María – and that they’re in it together but the truce doesn’t last long.
Milagros goes out of her way to try and convince Susana not to waste her one opportunity but when she tries a similar pep talk on María, trying to talk her out of all this God business, Susana goes ballistic. Revealing that she’s secretly in love with a certain singing nun – she wonders how Milagros dares try dissuade her best friend from her calling – even if that calling seems so far-fetched. If she, Susanna can be gay and in love with a nun, then why can’t Maria be in love with God? Which is a fair point. As Susanna says, to each their own.
Shocked by this outburst, Milagros is even more stunned when Susana kisses her and meanwhile, off camera I whooped. Could Mialgros feel the same way about Susanna? How will the girls get back in God’s graces?
More importantly can we all just bury the hatchet and be best friends forever with no more cross words ever uttered?
You know last week’s sub-par cock fest? This is the antidote to that. Where Love was pretentious, dull and full to the brim with misogynistic rhetoric, Holy Camp! is fun and touching – a study on friendship and the support women give unflinchingly when they love one another, romantically, platonically, whatever.
It looks great, the songs are brilliant – a mixture of Whitney classics and original songs, all of which are uplifting and hilarious. Plus the final number is ridiculously joyous.
Holy Camp! does look at religion but it does so in such a way that it doesn’t judge and that must be very difficult to pull off. In fact I take from it that to each their own also applies to faith which is a brilliant, simple message that I completely buy into.
Both central girls are gorgeous but they’re also warm and I feel their chemistry radiating off the screen. Particularly in the cabin scene, in which Susana declares her unwavering loyalty to María and her God dilemma. As mentioned though, this film has four vital corners and that includes Bernada and Milagros. Seriously, I love a mostly female cast and this is one of the most likable I’ve seen in a while.
Also, have some animated GIFs as a special treat. You are welcome.