Directed by: Desiree Akhavan
Premise: Based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth. Set in the early 1990s, a teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) is sent to conversion therapy when it is discovered that she’s a homosexual.
What Works: For better or worse, a lot of feature film dramas about homosexual characters are victim narratives in which protagonists cope with oppression. Movies like Brokeback Mountain, Philadelphia, and Moonlight are about characters who are forced to conceal their sexual orientation and are threatened when it is exposed. The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows in that tradition and it joins But I’m a Cheerleader and Boy Erased in the niche of dramas about gay conversion therapy. This film mostly falls within the framework of similar stories but it is distinguished by its depth of character and balance of pathos and humor. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is led by Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role. She plays a young woman who is discovered to be carrying on a secret love affair with a female friend and Cameron is sent to gay conversion therapy. There she meets a diverse crew of other patients including her roommate played by Emily Skeggs and a pair of rebels played by Forrest Goodluck and Sasha Lane. The filmmakers and the actors create unique and well defined characters the movie captures the awkwardness of adolescence and the way that awkwardness is magnified by having gender and sexuality critiqued so publicly. The movie has some fun with these characters but the humor is humanizing rather than spiteful because it reveals the flaws of these characters and makes them accessible. The humor is appropriate to the subject matter and the filmmakers show good judgement for when to go for a joke and when to play it serious. That humor and tangible humanity distinguish The Miseducation of Cameron Post from similar movies whose drama is laid on a little too thick.
What Doesn’t: The Miseducation of Cameron Post is missing some important expository information. It’s implied that Cameron’s parents are dead and she is under the charge of her religiously devout aunt but we can only infer this from what’s presented on screen. The filmmakers offer very little about Cameron’s guardian or about Cameron’s own background especially in regard to religion. It’s unclear if Cameron is religious herself and how that might dispose her to accept or reject the religious framework of the so-called therapy. For that matter, we don’t get much of a sense of how Cameron regards her own sexuality. Actress Chloë Grace Moretz fills in some of that information through the subtle details of her performance but the story could have set this up in a way that would lend greater meaning to later events. The end of The Miseducation of Cameron Post is lacking. The movie doesn’t feel like it reaches a conclusion so much as it just ends.
DVD extras: The Special Edition Blu-Ray contains a commentary track, image gallery, and trailers.
Bottom Line: The Miseducation of Cameron Post is one of the more accessible critiques of gay conversion therapy. The movie succeeds due to its humor and performances. Its lighter touch makes The Miseducation of Cameron Post accessible in a way that may reach viewers who do not already grasp the damage wrought by this discredited form of treatment.
Episode: #742 (March 24, 2019)