This Film is Not Yet Rated
1 Hr and 30 Minutes
Dir: Desiree Akhavan | Writer: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, John Gallagher, Jr., Forrest Goodluck, Jennifer Ehle, Quinn Shephard
When teenage Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is caught having sex with another girl on prom night, she is shipped off to God’s Promise, a middle-of-nowhere treatment center run by Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and “success story” Reverend Rick (John Gallagher, Jr.). They subject her to dubious gay conversion therapies—but, despite these “treatments,” Cameron eventually forges a community with her fellow teens, quietly defiant Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck). Together, these misfits play at recovery, since their only way out is time.
Around 2016, I learned the definition of conversion therapy. I read about what it was and what goes on in there and I thought it was the most frightening thing a homosexual can go through. It may be acceptable and legal to be gay today, but in 1993, it wasn’t legal at all. One of the things I have to admit about “Cameron Post” is how much it opened my eyes to how horrifying conversion therapy truly is. As a young millennial, I was completely unaware that this pseudoscientific practice has been going on for nearly a century. The film boldly exhibits how bizarre conversion therapy is by forcing people to find themselves through God.
There are either two types of teens that live in this camp: the Jesus freaks who are already in the deep end of brainwashed and then the people who just don’t give a fuck and fake it till they can make it [back home]. There are two characters Cameron befriends, named Jane Fonda and Adam Red Eagle, who are trying to make the most out of the situation by facing a front. When they’re introduced, they practically go, “Hey we’re here. We’re queer and we’re going to sneak off and get high as fuck.”
As someone who dabbled in super religious christianity for one part of my life, I can say firsthand how surreally honest the film depicts Christianity by the way the people at the camp interact. The film really hits on the nose how crazy Christianity is. I mean no disrespect to the religion at all but as someone who was once forced into being a Jehovah’s Witness, a lot of the elements of the teens being brainwashed to only love Jesus and not thyself or other of the same sex in this context, the apple doesn’t stray that far away. If you were watching a faith-based film, the Christianity would be easily respected by the viewer but since this is the total opposite of that, Christianity is played up for laughs. Director Desiree Akhavan strikes the right tone with “Cameron Post” where she incorporates humor to add levity to this very serious and real subject but knows exactly when to deliver the drama when necessary. Akhavan progressively shows how frightening the process of conversion therapy is where the adults are condescending and cruel in the quiet kind of way. The craziest part is that they both don’t see that what they’re doing is wrong and may or may not know what they’re even doing.
Cameron Post such an interesting person for she is the audience’s avatar. We are witnessing the camp through her point of view throughout. As you question the functionality of the camp, Post herself reacts the same way as anyone else would, if forced into this situation. Cameron is quiet and is very reserved, but through visual flashbacks and daydreams, one can get a clear sense of her struggle and the trials she faces. Throughout the film, we see Cameron try her best to convert her sexuality and/or at least confirm it and you feel for her all the way through. As this girl tries to find herself, she realizes more and more that this facility is even more fucked up than it may seem on the surface.
As much as I’m commending Cameron Post as a strong character, all the credit goes to Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular character who delivers a powerful performance. Her method of acting in this is mostly observant and just one look expresses a lot, especially when you find yourself making the same expression as her. These are the roles Moretz should be taking nowadays where she is portraying characters who are well-written and challenges her with roles she’s never embarked on. Granted, every actor should do this, and those who have been doing so do it tremendously well. Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley are just a few names who have been in great works after being the face for a YA generation. Now Moretz has a great chance to follow in those footsteps.
Even though this is based on a YA novel, Akhavan made it more mature by taking some liberties with the story and making it her own thing. Cameron Post is 17 instead of 12 and the content is really heavy to ensure an R rating as opposed to it being PG-13, which are roles Moretz came onto the scene with and honestly works with best. “Kick-Ass”, “Let Me In”, and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Risings” are several examples of R-rated movies Moretz starred in and managed to steal the show in and this is a new entry to that list.
From a character and setting standpoint, “Miseducation of Cameron Post” thoroughly works. What it fails with though is a narrative of substance. Cameron Post is a great character and the inner workings of the camp is enlightening, but that is all the film has to offer. There is a premise and a story, yet ultimately the film just displays what conversion therapy is and that’s about it. Everyone gives a great performance, but the story doesn’t really lead up to much. There is a resolution to this situation that Post is in but the way she resolves it is really anticlimactic. By the finale, the conclusion just expresses what you already know: Gay conversion therapy is bullshit.
There is a humorous Carrie reference a character makes towards Cameron and all I kept thinking about was the 2013 “Carrie” remake that had Moretz in the titular role. I felt the film space continuum beginning to shake.
LAST STATEMENT: Though its narrative is thin giving it’s serious subject matter, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is an eye-opening coming of age drama helmed by a great performance by Chloe Moretz.