The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr., Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Jennifer Ehle
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…an astute, occasionally trenchant drama…
Caught in a compromising position with the prom queen, high school track star Cameron Post (Chloe Grace Moretz) is promptly shipped off to God’s Promise, a gay conversion camp by her fundamentalist Christian guardians. There she is forced to try and pray away the gay, alternatively being lectured by the icy, authoritarian Dr. Lydia March (Jennifer Ehle channeling Louise Fletcher), cajoled by well-meaning, self-loathing “former” homosexual Reverend Rick (John Gallagher, Jr.), and forced to engage in group therapy, wrongheaded self-analysis, and nonsensical activities like “Blessercize” in order to purge herself of her sinful thoughts.
Adapted from the 2012 novel by Emily M. Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an institutional coming of age tale that sees our heroine join a small cadre of resisters, including snarky stoner amputee Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane), the product of polyamorous parents, and Native American winkte or “two-spirit” Adam (Forrest Goodluck), who has been banished to God’s Promise to protect his politician father’s reputation. Other patients, like Cameron’s sports-mad roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs) and the fragile Mark (Owen Campbell), do their level best to cleave to the program’s tenets, to varying degrees of success.
Miseducation hits a lot of familiar narrative beats and a lot of the emotional material is familiar to anyone who has been a teenager (or seen a movie about them), but by locating its drama in a gay conversion facility and drilling down deep into that single issue, everything has a heightened, immediate, and tragic quality that it might otherwise lack. We’ve seen a ragtag group of kids butt heads with authority figures before, but we’ve rarely seen them do so because those in power are quite literally telling them that something in the core of their being is broken and wrong. In its depiction of the old freedom vs control battle, Miseducation never attains the archetypal power of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – an obvious point of comparison – but it’s certainly closer in spirit and intent to that film than, say, the more simplistic ruminations of The Breakfast Club. Still, there are times when the heart on the film’s sleeve is a little too prominent, and scenes that should resonate strongly land too heavily.
A wicked, arch streak of humour and some excellent performances help us over these rough patches, though. Moretz’s Cameron is perhaps a little too passive as a protagonist, but her watchful, guarded demeanour here makes her a perfect witness to the action, while both Goodluck and Lane deliver vibrant, indelible turns.
Despite a few stumbles and some overly familiar story turns, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an astute, occasionally trenchant drama, one whose themes give it a power and relevancy that exceed its more rote plot machinations.