THE STORY – Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) looks the part of a perfect high school girl. But after she’s caught with another girl in the back seat of a car on prom night, Cameron is quickly shipped off to a conversion therapy center that treats teens “struggling with same-sex attraction.” At the facility, Cameron is subjected to outlandish discipline, dubious “de-gaying” methods, and earnest Christian rock songs—but this unusual setting also provides her with an unlikely gay community. For the first time, Cameron connects with peers, and she’s able to find her place among fellow outcasts.
THE CAST – Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr. & Jennifer Ehle
THE TEAM – Desiree Akhavan (Director/Writer) & Cecilia Frugiuele (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 90 Minutes
By Matt N.
The freedom to be your own person is at the forefront of “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” It’s a film which celebrates individualism and the basic freedoms we all have to think how we want to think, to act how we want to act and to love how we want to love. Featuring authentic and fully lived in performances by its pitch-perfect cast and quality writing which highlights the film’s themes and places the characters at the front of the story with their emotional complexities, “The Miseducation Of Cameron Post” was one of the best films I had the privilege of seeing at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. A cross between “Novitiate” and “Lady Bird” with LGBTQ splashes thrown in, the winner of the award for the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for US Drama more than lives up to the hype.
It’s 1993 and after getting caught on prom night making out in the back seat of a car with her secretive lover/girlfriend (Quinn Shephard), Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is sent by her aunt to God’s Promise, a gay conversion school which attempts to cure young adults of their SSA (Same-Sex Addiction). Confused, scared and conflicted, Cameron is not alone at the school as her feelings are shared by her new friends which include a one-legged girl named Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane), and her pot-smoking friend with a ponytail that is too long for the school’s code of conduct named Adam (Forrest Goodluck), or otherwise known by his Native American name, Red Eagle. Stuck in this situation together, they are reluctantly trying to adhere to the school’s rules, enforced by the school’s strict and heavily religious director Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother Reverend Rick Marsh (John Gallagher Jr.), a once gay man who claims he has been cured of his SSA and can teach others the same thing.
The number one highlight of “The Miseducation Of Cameron Post” is the cast itself. Featuring a wide variety of roles which allow the actors to explore deep emotions involving confusion, suppression, and defiance, this film thrives on the backbone of its talented cast. Front and center is Chloë Grace Moretz who gives her most fully realized performance yet as the quiet Cameron Post. Not abused, but psychologically being brainwashed by the institution who truly believes they are trying to help her, Moretz shows us a side of her we have never seen before. She’s timid, reserved, relatable and a perfect point of view character that allows us to experience this unfortunate journey which she is being forced to go on. Sasha Lane proves that she was no one-hit wonder fluke with “American Honey” as she shows more range as an actress in “The Miseducation Of Cameron Post.” Forrest Goodluck (Last seen as Leonardo DiCaprio’s son in “The Revenant”) also gets to show more of his range as well, both in the comedic and dramatic departments. Owen Campell (“Super Dark Times”) has an emotionally devastating scene near the end of the film, where the school’s teachings finally push him to a breaking point and Cameron’s roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs), who appears to be the strictest one of the kids in terms of enforcing the school’s rules has an internal conflict raging inside of her that slowly becomes more evident as the film progresses. They are rounded out by the tremendous John Gallagher Jr. and Jennifer Ehle, the brother-sister duo who run the school with a calm and warm exterior, unaware of the horrible psychological effects they are having on the kids fighting to simply be themselves.
The second highlight of “The Miseducation Of Cameron Post” is its writing. As stated above, the cast is given enough material to make their characters feel authentic and relatable. Look no further than a scene in a kitchen where all of the kids start singing to the tune of “What’s Up” by 4 Non-Blondes. It’s a moment of joyful expression, which exuberantly makes you wish you could join in with them and that is one of the many signs throughout that the screenplay knows how to present its characters and story to a sympathetic audience. The idea of gay-conversion is a dehumanizing one which makes “The Miseducation Of Cameron Post” hard to watch at times but it is well balanced with moments of levity, surprises, and extraordinary humanity. I will be hard-pressed to find a more emotionally affecting screenplay this year.
A story about how to cope with familial rejection and discovering who you truly are, “The Miseducation Of Cameron Post” is a winning success in terms of its story and characters. The difficulty is not within the issue itself. The film makes it very clear that gay-conversion camps are wrong and harmful towards the young kids’ psyche and ultimately, their very existence. The complexity comes in the form of the characters, their plights and their desire to be free. Ending on a note which resembles “The Graduate” writer/director Desiree Akhavan’s film is a deeply felt one which will stick with you long after the credits have rolled. Filled with wonderfully three-dimensional performances and a well constructed and balanced screenplay, “The Miseducation Of Cameron Post” is a triumph of expression and the human condition in the face of adversity.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Fully realized writing and performances from its talented and balanced cast.
THE BAD – Some may feel the film’s reserved subtlety lacks energy.