Adults think that it’s in everyone’s best interests to raise young people properly. Make sure they’re listening to the right music and all of that. But there are instances where that hand can get too heavy. In the The Miseducatuon of Cameron Post we see Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.). He searches the bags of his rehab institution’s new student, Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz), looking for un-Christian tapes. Overboard, sure, but it gets worse knowing his reasons.
Cameron is under the care of Rick and his sister Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle). The latter two are mixing Christianity and pseudo-psychology to supposedly cure Cameron and other teens from their homosexuality. Cameron, it goes without saying, is in the institute against her will, sent there by her aunt and guardian. This is a horror show of a situation. Cameron has to face adults who are denying the existence of her sexuality and doing so coldly.
Director Desiree Akhavan shows scenes in Cameron’s new life. There are close-ups of her and the fellow students as they’re together in prayer. Montages with anachronistic indie rock playing non-diagetically. The music adds a disturbing warmth to these scenes. As if she’s just in a regular group therapy session instead of something that might as well be prison. In a way, this is a reminder that the institute isn’t normal, despite its desperate attempts of appearing so.
Although fortunately, Cameron gets to meet the school’s other rebels, Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck). They still remember secular music, as well as secular values and lives. The lives that they could have led had. But of course, something happens like their parents converting to Christianity and stick them to this school. These scenes reinforce the hipster-y tone that’s an understandable decision yet one that won’t sit well with a few viewers.
There’s one thing about those scenes with the three adolescent rebels. They hang out while taking long hikes looking for weed that they can smoke in the school’s basement. There’s an irony about these scenes, that they take place during the mid 90’s. When marijuana is illegal but ex-gay school aren’t. There’s also the exterior/interior divide, which could be on the nose. But Akhavan is still right in showing the places where the teens can feel freedom.
It also shows how Lydia runs what looks like a private school. But she’s subtly employing tactics that a prison warden would – setting these kids against each other. Cameron is a tougher nut to crack, frustrating most of the students who ‘want to get well’. Moretz gets to become a different kind of rebel from the louder ones we’ve seen her play. Cameron isn’t conscious of how she doesn’t process desire goes against what others are doing.
But the movie isn’t all about debatable directorial decisions. Akhavan occasionally shoots Cameron within darkness, especially during her most vulnerable moments. Her sex scenes or crying scenes, one more frequent than the other, happen within partial darkness. Darkness is a frustrating tactic that many directors use but not Ahkavan. Since she balances that with warm tones that remind her audiences of the time. She also shows us physical objects that come short of giving the characters relief.
Speaking of Cameron, casting Moretz in the part is a great gamble. She normally plays characters who would have not taken any crap from people like Lydia or Rick. We can say the same thing about Lane. There’s something heartbreaking about watching these two young women playing roles that initially seem like defenseless blank slates. But as the film progresses, the audience learns that they have open minds. Which are better at fighting demons of adult size.
- Genre: Drama, Romance
- Release Date: 8/10/2018
- Directed by: Desiree Akhavan
- Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane
- Produced by: Desiree Akhavan, Jonathan Montepare, Michael B. Clark
- Written by: Cecilia Frugiuele, Desiree Akhavan, Emily M. Danforth
- Studio: Beachside Films, FilmsWeLike, Parkville Pictures