The Miseducation of Cameron Post

 

starstarstar

 


A heartfelt drama portraying those who claim to cure any deviancy from heterosexuality.

   

The  Miseducation of Cameron Post

Melanie Ehrlich and Chloë Grace Moretz

  

This is a film with subject matter that gives it a built-in reservoir of goodwill - and that is fortunate because this second feature from Desiree Akhavan, whose Appropriate Behaviour was for the most part warmly received, is surprisingly less effective than one would expect. Akhavan, co-writer here with Cecilia Frugiuele, has this time taken as her source material a young adult novel by Emily M. Danforth. She has chosen to concentrate on the novel's second half centred on the later experiences of the titular heroine, the young Cameron Post played on screen by Chloë Grace Moretz. This is after Cameron has been sent to a Christian conversion centre in order to be cured of her lesbianism.

 

The film's country setting is far removed from the New York location that gave so much flavour to Appropriate Behaviour but, since Akhavan identifies as bisexual, the theme of this new work must be personally meaningful to her. Indeed, in the best dialogue exchange in the film, one involving Cameron and the well-intentioned but misguided principals running the establishment, the youthful heroine spells out memorably what their attitude really involves: "How can it not be emotional abuse if people are made to hate themselves?"

 

As this suggests, Akhavan's film, despite occasional humorous touches, is very much a dark drama and it is one enhanced by her decision to portray the woman in charge, Dr. Lydia Marsh, as totally sincere in her outlook. Jennifer Ehle, always a fine actress, gives in that role what is by far the most accomplished performance here. But, while the film deserves support for having its heart in the right place, its dramatic effectiveness is undermined both by the writing and the direction.

 

In depicting the disciples, as the inmates of the establishment are known, the film shows us quite a number but few of them are portrayed with any real depth or meaningful detail and curiously that extends to Cameron herself. That may be due to converting the book's earlier stages into no more than a series of brief flashbacks - even the first of these, which shows Cameron being caught in a compromising situation with a girlfriend (Quinn Shephard), somehow lacks a forceful impact. Similarly, little is ultimately made of the fact that the Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr), Lydia Marsh's brother, claims that he himself has been cured of homosexuality.

 

The terrible fate of one disciple (Owen Campbell) does seek to generate more power but, while the writing is stronger here, his big outburst carries a touch of self-conscious melodrama. That the weaknesses are not confined to the writing is confirmed by such moments as the long-held last shot that is sustained at excessive length without conveying any effective meaning. Nevertheless, in spite of its shortcomings, many will welcome what The Miseducation of Cameron Post has to say and not least because the film reaches us at a time when liberals live with anxiety as to what America's President might do next.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Chloë Grace Moritz, Jennifer Ehle, John Gallagher Jr, Sasha Lane, Marin Ireland, Kerry Butler, Quinn Shephard, Owen Campbell, Forrest Goodluck, Emily Skeggs, Melanie Ehrlich, Christopher Dylan White.

 

Dir Desiree Akhavan, Pro Michael B.Clark, Cecilia Frugiuele, Jonathan Montepare and Alex Turtletaub, Screenplay Desiree Akhavan and Cecilia Frugiuele, from the novel by Emily M. Danforth, Ph Ashley Connor, Pro Des Markus Kirschner, Ed Sara Shaw, Music Julian Wass, Costumes Stacey Berman.

  
Beachside Films/Parkville Pictures-Vertigo Films.
91 mins. USA/UK. 2017. Rel: 7 September 2018. Cert. 15.