Director: Desiree Akhavan
Screenplay: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher, Jr., Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Jennifer Ehle
Runtime: 90 Minutes
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a coming-of-age drama based on the 2012 teen novel by Emily M. Danforth, concerning central character Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her discovery of her own emergent homosexuality as she is sent abruptly to a conversion therapy camp by her aunt once her relationship with her girlfriend is discovered.
It’s a strong premise to home a drama on when placing contemporary perspectives on the relatively recent past of the 1990s, especially regarding the state of America and conservative viewpoints. But while the performances from the young cast are overall convincing and excellent, especially Moretz and recent stars Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck, it can’t escape that it feels like there’s a missing component or more preventing it from elevating to something more substantial than a decently paced and likeable drama.
Director and co-writer Desiree Akhavan, a bisexual woman herself, has spent much of her recent output exploring concepts of identity and belonging to queer individuals, from her web series and shorts to her debut feature Appropriate Behavior.
Here she tackles it more head-on with an agenda beyond presenting the trials and tribulations of life as a homosexual and woman in the modern world, but it’s her very laidback sensibilities toward drama and conflict that have otherwise worked in her other character-focused work that ends up bringing the movie down when it feels like it should be going up and progressing in a narrative sense.
It’s fine to have a film in which there isn’t all that much incident, instead focusing on the small moments of interaction that come to shape us, the texture of memory and mixed adolescent fusion of emotions and frustration. The scenes with John Gallagher, Jr. as a supposedly converted reverend and brother to the leading doctor is spellbinding. But the systemic issue of this ultimately boils over when it looks like the film is about to take its characters to another level of understanding, and then doesn’t.
Abruptly ending which what appears to be an intentional robbing of catharsis to hammer home the sentiment that the experience of homosexuals and those without “appropriate gender roles” is a never-ending one, but as far as dramatic storytelling is concerned when framed in a manner such as this it ends up leaving it a sadly forgotten and frustrating experience.
Lack of ending aside, the performances and direction really make up for it. The young cast is great, it doesn’t shy away from its nastier aspects even if it does feel like box-ticking, and it’s enjoyable it lacking a punch. It will work much better for some closer to the experience of the characters than others.