The (Mis)education of Cameron Post
by Sofia Ferrara
A coming of age film from a queer female perspective. It presents itself as an alternative to the John Hughes narratives (The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink) that have dominated the genre for almost 40 years. Boy meets girl. Girl is pretty, boy wants girl. Boy gets girl, the end. ‘Boy’ has represented the active subject of a strictly heterosexual narrative up until recently. In The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Desiree Akhavan, there is very little or no ‘boy’ and the plot is driven by homosexuality. Yet, while Chloë Grace Moretz delivers a very compelling performance, the film is far from convincing.
Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a teenage girl that gets sent to a gay conversion camp after she is caught having sex with her best friend Coley on her prom night. God’s Promise Conversion Camp is led by Dr Lydia March (Jennifer Ehle), a psychologist, and her brother Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr). Rick himself is an “ex-gay” who, with the “help” of his sister, has found “the righteous path” (double quotes unavoidable and sadly necessary). Listening to Dr March’s “psychological” explanation of homosexuality and her “curative therapy” is chilling. Her words tragically make sense and evoke a strong impression of impotence in the audience that witnesses her abusive behaviour towards the kids at the camp. The subtle but undeniable display of psychological, and at times even physical, abuse is offered to the spectator with raw crudity. The film builds up a lot of uncomfortable frustration, and more than once I heard my fellow spectators burst out in comments of disapproval. The main flaw of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, however, is that it fails to release the tension and the anger it raises, leaving the audience with the annoying and bitter feeling of non-closure.
There is an element of passivity the film that is hardly addressed and difficult to overlook. Characters are too compliant of the camp, its purpose and the way it is accomplished. The few dissident voices in the film remain too quiet. Some of the plot developments attempt to provide an emotional outlet for the audience, but the film fails to release the tension it builds up. Cameron Post is the epitome of unresponsiveness, quietly accepting the homophobic narrative offered to her and the abusive treatment from the adults in the camp. She silently enters the camp and leaves just as silently. She comes across as more of a spectator than the protagonist of her own story. There is a lack of conflict, or a representation of it so weak that makes the film hard to digest.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a film displaying a reality that is tragically all too modern. Desiree Akhavan has a delicately violent way to narrate abuse and homophobia. Maybe it is her severe honesty translated in her cinematic style that made me angry and uncomfortable, but the Miseducation of Cameron Post left me with bitterness and a lot of frustration. A new perspective in this genre was long overdue. Cameron Post’s submissive character development, however, hardly feels like a coming of age.