VERTIGO RELEASING (2018)
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher, Jr., Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Owen Campbell, Quinn Shephard, Jennifer Ehle, Emily Skeggs
Back to the 90s.
Chloë Grace Moretz is fast becoming an actress to look out for. Having already portrayed Hit-Girl, Carrie, one of the Lutz kids and…Shelby in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, she has since turned to more low-key projects (having walked away from The Little Mermaid live action flick). With Suspiria and Greta upcoming (plus voicing Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family remake), her latest project is The Miseducation of Cameron Post – an adaptation of a 2012 novel of the same name – and her performance is simply excellent in a very good movie.
Set in 1993, the story revolves around Cameron Post (Moretz), a teenager in sexual limbo – when her feelings for best friend Coley (Shephard) spill into sexual fun, the inevitable fallout from it was never going to be smooth. Orphaned as a child, her devoutly Christian aunt Ruth (Kerry Butler) packs her off to God’s Promise, a gay conversion therapy centre governed with a strict iron fist by Dr. Lydia Marsh (Ehle in a soft Nurse Ratchet role) and her brother, Reverend Rick (Gallagher, Jr.). During her tempestuous stay (where inpatients are dubbed ‘disciples’), she meets hippie Jane Fonda (Lane), Adam Red Eagle (Goodluck) and Mark (Campbell) as she traverses the anti-gay/uber-religious environment and wrestles with her engulfing emotions and feelings.
Channelling elements of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and (moreso) 1999’s But I’m a Cheerleader, The Miseducation of Cameron Post tackles a heavy subject, but not with a sledgehammer assault, instead the movie takes a more insular approach. Some may find it plodding or vanilla because of this, however, by taking this approach, the movie actually benefits.
Moretz doesn’t take the Jack Nicholson route, nor is she a pretentious, rude teen that so very often gets portrayed in situations like this. Instead, she is a bottled-up, vulnerable, headstrong yet confused young woman attempting to stay true to herself in the face of religious vitriol. She is genuinely fantastic in the role and she met the challenge of covering varying emotions confidently and excellently. John Gallagher, Jr, too, continues his chameleon-like pursuit of roles, and he too is very good here despite looking very similar to Dave Grohl’s pilot in the Foo Fighters' Learn to Fly video. Sasha Lane doesn't look like Grohl here but, again, she is impressive once more.
The systematic destruction of the youth’s natural feelings is at once frustrating, infuriating and depressing to watch as the religious zealots dig their claws into these kids in the name of ‘God’. The fact that these centres exist at all is just ridiculous, but that’s the world we live in. However, the movie focuses more on hope which is what helps drive the movie on. Through the oppression shines a light that carries through to the end, despite the fairly predictable denouement. There are moments throughout that demand your attention, defining moments for the movie itself and the characters. Amongst these are elements of humour that carry that subtle indie vibe as opposed to straight-up laugh out loud moments. With a runtime clocking in at just over ninety-minutes, Cameron Post manages to tell its story without losing any effectiveness or momentum – moments with Cameron and her roommate Erin (Skeggs) are efficiently short without sacrificing punch, for example – and, though anticipated, the conclusion is satisfying enough given what preceded it.
As a coming-of-age story, The Miseducation of Cameron Post feels more vital than some of its more recent contemporaries. It carried a genuine feeling to it, it felt authentic, and the optimism that shone through became the movies key asset – aside from the marvellous turn from Moretz. Short and snappy, yet essential and excellent.
November 10th 2018