The Miseducation Of Cameron Post

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post
"While the characters are well drawn and the script gently amusing, it is also on the preachy side for adults - although young LGBTQ audiences certainly deserve the same sort of heroes and heroines that the straight kids have been indulged with for years"

One of a clutch of films at Sundance this year featuring strong LGBTQ themes, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post - a surprisingly tame choice for the US Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize - benefits from its unusual setting and a impressive cast even as the story goes through familiar coming-of-age themes.

Director Desiree Akhavan, adapts the Nineties-set novel by Emily M Danforth alongside her Appropriate Behaviour collaborator Cecilia Frugiuele. They push the age of the protagonist up from the novel, not least by casting 20-year-old Chloƫ Grace Moretz as the titular high-school kid, which further softens the film's impact - older casting automatically makes an audience view a character as less vulnerable (a fact brought into sharp focus by fellow Sundance competition film The Tale). When Cameron is caught making out with her best friend Coley (Quinn Shephard, who, it must be noted, is 22) all hell breaks loose on the homefront. Her Christian aunt Ruth (Kerry Butler) packs her off to an gay conversion therapy boarding school, God's Promise.

Here, under the tutelage of born-again straight guy Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr) and his more menacing sister Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle), the kids are supposed to come to see the error of their ways. Of course, this is all hogwash and one of the most refreshing things about Akhavan's film is that Cameron never doubts herself for a minute, quickly finding solidarity with fellow 'inmates' Jane Fonda (the remarkably good Sasha Lane, always rocky road even in the most vanilla of roles) and Adam Redeagle (Forrest Goodluck).

The portrayal of Lydia and Rick is also interesting, with the pair of them somehow more sinister because their belief in the possibility of conversion comes from a place of weird 'compassion', while a subplot involving Mark (Owen Campbell) brings home the consequences of trying to deny a fundamental part of yourself. While the characters are well drawn and the script gently amusing, it is also on the preachy side for adults - although young LGBTQ audiences certainly deserve the same sort of heroes and heroines that the straight kids have been indulged with for years. But the film's gentleness also works against it, with the plotting energy gradually seeping out of the action rather than building up the required head of steam to make the ending truly pay off.

Ultimately, this is a film that says the kids are all right, as long as you leave them alone, a welcome message even if the action that surrounds it is pretty forgettable.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2018
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1993: after being caught having sex with the prom queen, a girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center.
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