The Miseducation of Cameron Post is an important film and shines a light on something that has often be dismissed as “pray the gay away”. This a practice that was big in the 1990s and still ongoing. The Miseducation of Cameron Post embodies what film diversity means and takes a different look at the gay coming of age genre. This film aspires to be a lot of things and whilst the direction by the co-writer and director of the film, Desiree Akhavan’s is assured, the script lets the whole thing down.
Cameron Post (surely an award winning performance from Chloe Grace Moretz) is caught with Quinn Shephard (Coley) in the back of her date’s car making out. Her aunt presumably influenced by her pastor sends her niece to a gay conversion therapy centre. The centre is run by Dr Lydia Marsh (played by the astounding Jennifer Ehle) and her brother, who it transpires she “converted” from his “sinful ways”. We learn of how the other members of camp are there through examination of their icebergs and their interactions with Cameron. What incident lead them to be at the camp, how will they survive and can any of them actually be converted?
The paradox of this film, and what makes it interesting, is that it is that it’s episodic rather than thematic in nature and therein lies the problem. There isn’t really a narrative arc rather we the audience follow the daily struggles of those in the camp and the various incidents that happen. That is not a dramatic enough story. The ending denotes something of hope although it went on too long as if it was an excuse to play one full track off the Breeders album.
We don’t really know how Cameron came to be living with the person assumed to be her Aunt and all we are told is that her parents are dead. The middle is quite passive both for the audience and actors – nothing much happens aside from the brutal pivotal act. This is an examination of ideas rather than storytelling. At one point in the film Cameron jumps up on the kitchen table and starts singing What’s Up (What’s Going On) by the 4 non blondes and it is precisely at that point that the viewer is questioning what is actually going on with the story.
In some ways it does capture the essence of The Breakfast Club but it is dealing with too important of a subject matter for this to be a worthy comparison. The weakest character may actually be Cameron herself because not enough time is given to providing a context for who she is, where she came from etc.
At times the film felt too self aware when what we really wanted was the story to be told: a beginning, middle and end. Representation matters on screen and if teens can see themselves in these characters and this helps them that is vital as well. Ultimately, the Miseducation of Cameron Post aspires to be a lot of things but the script lets it down.
Cameron Post is released in cinemas across the UK on 7 September 2018.
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