Sunday, April 12, 2020
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is about a teenager who is sent to a gay conversion therapy center after her religious aunt learns about an incident where she is caught having sex with another girl. Directed by Desiree Akhavan and screenplay by Akhavan and Cecilia Frugiuele, the film is an exploration of the world of gay conversion therapy centers as it is set in the early 1990s at a time when the LGBT movement was becoming more open. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr., Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Owen Campbell, Kerry Butler, Quinn Shephard, Emily Skeggs, Melanie Ehrlich, and Jennifer Ehle. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an evocative and riveting film from Desiree Akhavan.
Set in 1993, the film revolves around a teenage girl who is caught by her prom date for having sex with another girl in a car prompting her aunt to send to a gay conversion therapy center where she is trying to cope with her situations and others who are struggling with their own identity and sexuality. It’s a film that explore the world of gay conversion therapy as the titular character (Chloe Grace Moretz) is sent to the center as she tries to find out what she might be gay but also others at this center. The film’s screenplay by Desiree Akhavan and Cecilia Frugiuele is largely straightforward with bits of flashbacks but also moments that are dream-like as it play into Cameron Post’s own journey as she meets other teens who are living in this camp with some just trying to become straight with a couple of teens who don’t want to play by the rules but act out in secret.
Running the camp is Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) who is trying to get the kids in line with the help of her brother Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) who used to be gay until his sister saved him. The script does showcase some depth in both Reverend Rick and Dr. Marsh as well-meaning people who believe they’re doing God’s work yet they’re unable to understand everything as Post begins to ask questions though she doesn’t think they’re bad people. The script also play into this air of temptation but also a struggle with identity as two of the teens in the hippie-raised Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and the Lakota two-spirit Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) are both aware of who they are as they start to become unhappy with their time at the center.
Akhavan’s direction is largely straightforward in terms of its compositions yet it does a lot in exploring this period in time when gays and lesbians start to have their voices heard and people starting to come out. Yet, it is set in a world where not everyone is embracing this growing sense of change as Akhavan would shoot the film in various parts of Upstate New York. The location adds to the tone of the film where it does play into something where these young people are living somewhere that is almost in the middle of nowhere and sort of cut off from civilization. Akhavan’s direction doesn’t have a lot of wide shots except to establish the locations as she aims for something more intimate in her approach to close-ups and medium shots. Notably the latter as she focuses on what happens during group meetings as well as intimate moments involving Post, Fonda, and Eagle as well as exercises with her roommate Erin (Emily Skeggs). Akhavan also uses long takes to play into the conversations and group meetings in order to maintain the building friendship for Post and others at the center including a scene late in the film with Reverend Rick as it is clear that with all of these questions that Post has.
It is obvious that even someone like Reverend Rick doesn’t have all the answers but is at least trying to help these kids no matter how wrong he and his sister are. It all play into Post not just struggling with the world she’s in that is oppressive not just to herself but also to other teens as well as the people running it as they’re also struggling to connect with what is happening in modern civilization away. Akhavan also showcases Post’s own personal struggles as she’s trying to contact the girl she got caught with but also questions about whether she can come home as it raises her questions about her place in the world at a time when gays and lesbians are coming out yet acceptance is becoming hard to gain. Overall, Akhavan crafts a somber yet mesmerizing film about a teenage girl coping with her sexuality at a gay conversion therapy center.
Cinematographer Ashley Connor does excellent work with the film’s low-key cinematography as it emphasizes on naturalistic yet dark colors in some of the daytime interior/exterior scenes as well as low-key lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Sara Shaw does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some jump-cuts to play into a few bits of Post jogging on a track field as well as some rhythmic cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Markus Kirschner, with set decorators John Arnos and Erin Blake plus art director Tori Lancaster, does amazing work with the look of the center and its buildings as well as the rooms that include decorations that teens put in the wall to motivate them getting straight.
Costume designer Stacey Berman does fantastic work with the costumes as it features some uniforms that the teens wear as well as a few casual pieces they would wear in the weekends or time to get out of the camp for a bit. Sound editor Ryan Billa does superb work with the sound as it is largely straightforward to play into the natural atmosphere of the locations as well as how music is heard on a radio or at a live Christian rock show. The film’s music by Julian Wass is wonderful for its mixture of low-key ambient music with elements of folk to play into the air of uncertainty that occur throughout the film while music supervisors Maggie Phillips and Christine Greene Roe create a soundtrack that does play into the period of the early 90s from the alternative music of the Feelies and 4 Non Blondes as well as music from Clarice Jensen, Melanie Ehrlich, Fredda Manzo, Irma Thomas, Wild Yawp with Justin Denis and Jack Reilly, and Timothy Blixseth.
The casting by Jessica Daniels is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Dale Soules as Post’s grandmother, Christopher Dylan White as a teen named Dane who has a lot of attitude and puts people down over their problems, Melanie Ehrlich as a teen in Helen who is really into Christian rock, Quinn Shephard as the girl Post got caught with before she is sent to the center in Coley, Kerry Butler as Post’s aunt/guardian, Marin Ireland as a math teacher/Reverend Rick’s girlfriend Bethany whom Post dreams about making out with, and Owen Campbell as a troubled teen in Mark who is Adam’s roommate as he offers to help Post out while dealing with the idea that he might not be masculine enough for his father. Emily Skeggs is terrific as Erin as teenage girl who loves the Minnesota Vikings as she believes she’s a lesbian due to spending a lot of time with her dad as she finds herself becoming attracted towards Post. Jennifer Ehle is fantastic as Dr. Lydia Marsh as the center’s head as someone who is trying to help these teens though she is at times strict yet is willing to give people a chance to explain themselves while thinking she might have the answer to help them.
John Gallagher Jr. is excellent as Reverend Rick as Dr. Marsh’s brother who used to be gay as he is someone trying to help these kids as well as be a guide to them but eventually finds himself having a hard time when he is unable to give them easy or hard answers. Forrest Goodluck is brilliant as Adam Red Eagle as a two-spirit Lakota teen whose father has converted to Christianity as he has trouble trying to understand what the people at the center are doing while often likes to wear his hair down in a small act of rebellion. Sasha Lane is amazing as Jane Fonda as a hippie-raised teenage girl who sports a prosthetic leg as she is also rebellious but in secrecy as she also grows marijuana outside of the plant as a way to cope with her surroundings. Finally, there’s Chloe Grace Moretz in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as this young woman who is sent to this gay-conversion therapy center as she struggles with the idea of why she’s gay while trying to cope with the therapy itself though she doesn’t think the people running the place aren’t bad but misguided as she also deals with herself and other things at the center as it is one of Moretz’s finest performances to date.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an incredible film from Desiree Akhavan featuring a mesmerizing leading performance from Chloe Grace Moretz. Along with its brilliant ensemble cast and exploration of sexual identity during a time when not everyone is embracing the idea of coming out. It is also a film that explore a woman dealing with her situation as well as being in a world that is strict and religious yet with people who have good intentions but don’t have all the answers. In the end, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a sensational film from Desiree Akhavan.
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