Thursday, 10 January 2019

Film Review #106

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)
Director: Desiree Akhavan Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Owen Campbell, Kerry Butler, Quinn Shephard, Emily Skeggs, Melanie Ehrlich, Jennifer Ehle

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 90 Minutes

Almost 20 years ago now I accidentally discovered an obscure indie film called But I'm a Cheerleader which starred Natasha Lyonne as a high school girl who was sent to a reparative therapy camp by her friends and family who all thought she was a lesbian, despite the fact that she had never shown any romantic or sexual interest in other girls. It was all very campy silly stuff but pretty funny and heartwarming too, and it's still an occasional guilty pleasure for me nowadays. It is mainly for this reason I took a particular interest in The Miseducation of Cameron Post which, adapted from Emily M. Danforth's 2012 novel, sounded like a more modern, and probably more dramatic take on the same subject - a subject which is even more relevant today than 20 years ago.

The so-called sexual deviant in this case is Ms. Post (Moretz), but she isn't just suspected by those close to her - she was actually caught making out with her 'friend' Coley (Shephard) in the car park during their high school prom, and caught by their respective (male) dates no less! Suffice to say, the guys were not ecstatic to find their girlfriends getting busy with each other. The next thing we know, Cameron gets packed off to God's Promise, a gay conversion therapy centre run by the strict Dr. Lydia Marsh (Ehle) and her brother Reverend Rick (Gallagher Jr.), who insist their methods 'cure' homosexuality. This, presumably, is despite the long-established facts, knowledge, and common sense of most rational people.

I guess it's easy to make fun but some people really do believe this kind of thing works. With a film like Cheerleader it's just a silly set-up for a fun film, but Miseducation is indeed a more serious, dramatic film than the one that inspired me to watch it, and that just makes me worried about what real places like this do to some people. Unlike Lyonne's character, Cameron isn't in denial, she's just heartbroken. Confused, perhaps, about what exactly God's Promise is and how she can get back home to see Coley, but not about her sexuality which never seems to be an issue for her. You can't really blame her for feeling a bit lost and Moretz does a great job of helping you feel Cameron's vulnerability and frustration with her situation.

Her track record has been a little patchy in my experience, since she graduated to 'adult' roles at least, but she is on top form here, as is the rest of the cast, notably Lane and Goodluck as Jane and Adam, two other 'disciples' she befriends. It's an engaging film too. The premise is interesting, either from a comedic or dramatic standpoint, but I did find myself wondering if it was taken far enough. I can only imagine how much places like this could damage the kids that get sent to them, and aside from a few small incidents and one major one, Cameron's stay isn't quite as eventful as it might've been. It's a fine film though, artfully directed and helped by some strong performances which keep the emotions right at the surface.

RKS Score: 7/10


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