The Miseducation of Cameron Post Review
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) Film Review from the 17th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by Desiree Akhaven, and starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Quinn Shephard, Emily Skeggs, Owen Campbell, and John Gallagher Jr.
You know, for the love of me, I could never quite understand how, in this so-called information age, how attention spans actually seem to be shrinking. Well, I’m not going to getting into that, here; but I’ll take this moment to mention that there was a time – between the Closet Age, and the present – that has been kind of forgotten. More to the point, I’d like to mention The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which was an attempt to encapsulate that period.
The Culture Wars, as they have been collectively referred to in the U.S. has been waging ever since the Counter-Culture blasted a permanent hole in the psyche of Eisenhower America. LGBTQ rights has had a place in that struggle; but outside of headline moments – like Harvey Milk, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the AIDS epidemic – certain aspects may have been overshadowed into obscurity, by a community that may have become relatively complacent, at this point. To that point, The Miseducation of Cameron Post may have something to say.
Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz), having been caught in the act of rejecting gender expectations, is sent to a Bible Camp designed to salvage the souls of gay youths. From there, the film explores the personal privations of this experience – a sense of absurdity, betrayal, rejection, dejection, self-loathing, and maddening confusion, all at once – as a way of addressing the larger issue.
Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle), and Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), represented the twin faces of that issue. Dr. Marsh was the true-believer that projected answers to her ‘patients,’ rather than seeking them out; her relentlessness, in pursuing ideology as pseudo-science, represented by the fact that she always wore red. Rick was the true-believer that may have been more victim, than perpetrator; but that aspect, to his role as the film’s good cop, was merely touched upon.
The only true antagonist in the film was a blissfully blind system, and the very notion that the camp represents. To regard this as a dodge, of some kind, would be to discount how much more dangerous an idea can be, compared to any number of individuals who may subscribe to it.
Like fascism, fundamentalist theocracy has had a knack for reasserting itself within societies – re-branded to suit contemporary issues, satiate the passions of the narrow-minded, and be more acceptable to everyone else. In this case, the brand was ‘Family Values’ – regarded, by those who embrace the term, as a true casualty of the Counter-Culture.
Miseducation presented one real consequence of the Family Values rebrand having been allowed to go mainstream. Never mind that (in light of just how far the LGBTQ community has come) this is something of a forgotten period; the fact that the United States is currently a Vice-Presidency away, from a promised return to just such Values, likely explains why this film was made.
It wasn’t just a reminder of where American society once was, it was a warning of what we might be allowing back.
Cameron’s experience clearly depicted a ‘westernized’ re-education camp at work (lending a degree of irony to the film’s title). While the story & setting wasn’t nearly as draconian as, say, The Handmaiden’s Tale, they do have the undercurrent of “suffering is good for the soul” in common. Cameron shared some of that suffering with a pair of old hands – Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) & Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) – and, frankly, they stole the show.
While Chloë benefited from first person perspective & flashbacks, to justify Cameron being at the film’s center, Sasha & Forrest were free to be more forceful with their roles. Cameron was primarily the victim; they were well past that, and willing to take her along – providing much of the film’s tension & tension breakers, in the process.
We were only given glimpses of what went into bringing the remaining cast to the story; but, somehow, this helped make the film’s characters & interactions more interesting than the story, itself. This is not to say that the story wasn’t interesting – as a historical snapshot, it was just a familiar one – only that Miseduction got more out of its character interactions, than it did from the overarching plot.
Certain aspects of Miseduction did bother me, a bit. The biggest problem was the camp policy of same-sex roommates – which, given the circumstance, would amount to pairing straight teens co-ed – but there was no way to discern whether this was actual policy, or plot convenience (it did factor into the plot, some). There was some evidence of the climax impacting the larger story; but the resolution was kept squarely to Cameron, Jane, and Adam. In fact, Dr. Marsh changing the color of her dress could’ve been the only sign of post-climax consequence – but that might’ve been a stretch of my own imagination.
The ending to the film was left fairly wide open – and I suppose this was just as well. We already know how the broader story ends (a campaign sticker, on the rear window of a pickup truck, added a little something to the closing scene); but even if it suggested much better prospects, for certain lead characters, it should also provide some ironic hindsight for viewers.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post may not be the most important/ compelling film you’ll likely see – on this, or any other subject – but in the context of past as prologue, it definitely needs to be kept in mind. Things only get better (for some) because they were worse; things only get worse (for ‘others’) because not everyone agrees about what ‘better’ means.
Remember that pickup truck poster? I think it meant go vote.
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