Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Owen Campbell, Kerry Butler, Quinn Shephard, Emily Skeggs, Melanie Ehrlich, Isaac Jin Solstein, Dalton Harrod, Steven Hauck, Christopher Dylan White, McCabe Slye
Written by: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele, based on a novel by Emily M. Danforth
Directed by: Desiree Akhavan
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 91
Date: 08/03/2018

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Straight Faced

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With an earthy, realistic tone, this timely drama about gay-conversion therapy is fairly straightforward; it's geared toward a YA audience, but it's patient and warmly sympathetic enough for others.

In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it's 1993, and Cameron Post (Chloe Grace Moretz) is caught making out with Coley Taylor (Quinn Shephard) in the back of a parked car during prom. Her aunt Ruth (Kerry Butler), who raised Cameron after the death of her parents, is shocked by Cameron's same-sex attraction, and mmediately ships Cameron to a camp called God's Promise to "convert" her back to the straight and narrow.

The camp is led by Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), who claims to be formerly gay, and his sister, Dr. Lydia March (Jennifer Ehle), who runs therapy sessions with the camp's attendees. While Cameron goes through the motions of the camp's activities and fantasizes about Coley, she meets the free-spirited Jane (Sasha Lane) and the long-haired American Indian Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) and bonds with them over their secret stash of pot. But when things take a turn for the worse, Cameron makes a desperate decision.

Moretz carries much of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which is based on a novel by Emily M. Danforth, with another one of her fine, mature, wounded performances. She expresses both thoughtfulness and desire as she faces an uncertain future. When she's asked ridiculous questions ("would you throw a parade for drug addicts?") during therapy, she answers honestly. Sometimes she just doesn't know the answers. Gallagher also gives a touching performance, putting on a happy face as he tries to be positive about his own repressed sexuality, though something is missing.

The Dr. March character is arguably the movie's weakest link. Ehle performs the role as an icy villainess, and even the screenplay views her without much depth. But the nuances of the rest of the characters make up for it.

Director and co-writer Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behaviour) starts her film with the characters at a disadvantage, as a church group warns the teens about their behavior, and how they'll spend the rest of their lives undoing the "mistakes" of their youths. That doesn't leave much wiggle room. Yet in this atmosphere of fear and hate and abandonment, Akhavan finds an ending much like that of The Graduate; it's an escape, but filled with both hope and trepidation.

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