Through a field trip sponsored by the Bates Rhetoric department, a friend and I boarded a yellow school bus that would take us to the Portland Museum of Art to see “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” The field trip attendees were mostly rhetoric majors and students of Professor of Rhetoric, Film, and Screen Studies Charles Nero’s Lesbian and Gay Images in Film, a course I’m taking this fall. “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Emily M. Danforth and was directed by Desiree Akhavan. Akhavan is an Iranian-American director, and “Miseducation” is her second film and follows her 2014 semi-autobiographical breakup romcom, “Appropriate Behavior.” Miseducation stars Chloe Grace-Moretz, Sasha Lane, John Gallagher Jr., and Forrest Goodluck.
The film follows Moretz as the titular Cameron Post through her experience in, and eventual escape from, a gay-conversion therapy boarding school. Cameron is sent to the boarding school by her evangelical aunt after her aunt catches her making love with her secret paramour, Coley, after prom. The film features multiple young lesbian sex scenes which fill a gaping hole in popular cinema. Importantly, Miseducation gives viewers a glimpse into gay conversion therapy, an institution that, despite scientific evidence of its ineffectiveness and psychological damage, still exists today. The film’s premise is incredibly important in spreading awareness and concern for the damage these “therapies” inflict on youth in homophobic communities.
The beginning of “Miseducation” is a gloomy look at hidden desires in a fundamentalist environment that conflates holiness with abstinence and gender roles. An especially poignant scene follows Cameron wordlessly through prom. She stiffly dances with her boyfriend while trapped in a sticky gym with other primped and pimpled pious adolescents.
With a musical swell, Coley enters the scene and viewers see Cameron for the first time, her relief and desire unveiling her goofy spirit with wild abandon. This was Moretz’s standout moment. After Cameron and Coley are discovered, Cameron’s aunt sends her to God’s Promise, where Cameron is asked to sign a contract that she realizes she has no choice in signing.
Cameron, from the beginning, silently rejects the teachings and tortures that God’s Promise inflicts on her. The siblings who lead the “treatment” center play the good and bad cop trope, but each barks a lot more than they bite. There’s the realistically chilling Dr. Lydia (Jennifer Ehle) and problematically sympathetic Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.). The latter claims to have been cured of his homosexuality. Cameron is resistant throughout to the siblings’ treatment, which frustrates Dr. Lydia. Cameron’s resistance endears her to two other rebels: Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck). Jane is an amputee, and her physicality is only addressed enough to be confusing, but not enough to be significant. Adam identifies as two-spirit, which is described poignantly while they tend to their wilderness weed garden. Goodluck managed to be simultaneously gentle and tense, making him a fascinating force amongst the other actors that were largely forgettable.
All in all, what you expect to happen in the film happens. But, due to Cameron’s static defiance and Moretz’s generally unresponsive facial expressions, the audience never sees Cameron grow. Aside from viewing her objectively horrible circumstances, the audience isn’t given a reason to care about Cameron’s story. Unfortunately, the inconsistent tone, useless plot points, and mostly poor acting took a compelling premise and made it dull.