The Miseducation of Cameron Post movie review: just as she is

part of my Movies for the Resistance and Directed by Women series
MaryAnn’s quick take: Like a black comedy from a dystopia, except the dystopia is real and we are living in it. Chloë Grace Moretz is better than ever as a teen who discovers she may not be able to pray her gay away.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for stories about girls and women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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You find yourself thinking: 1993 was only 25 years ago! How was this shit still happening so recently? And then you discover that it’s still going on in 2018. So-called gay-conversion therapy. “Praying the gay away.” It’s appalling.

So when I say that The Miseducation of Cameron Post — winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — is like a black comedy from a dystopia, I’m also saying that the dystopia is real and we are living in it. It’s more horrifying, then, than even bleakly funny, this tale of 11th-grader Cam Post (Chloë Grace Moretz: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The 5th Wave), who is sent to residential school “God’s Promise,” somewhere in rural America in the early 90s, after she is discovered messing around with her best (female) friend in the homecoming-dance parking lot. There, the cheerful denial of Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.: The Belko Experiment, 10 Cloverfield Lane) — himself an “ex-gay” — and the desperation to put a legitimate spin on the school’s “therapy” by director Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle: Fifty Shades Freed, I Kill Giants) would be amusing if it were invented satire, and if the earnestness and vulnerability of Cam and her fellow students weren’t so achingly authentic and wretched.

Astonishingly, “God’s Promise” had found a way to make school even more awful, by requiring teenagers to talk about sex constantly.
Astonishingly, “God’s Promise” had found a way to make school even more awful, by requiring teenagers to talk about sex constantly.

Moretz is better than she’s ever been before as she takes Cam slowly through a uniquely adolescent process — though one that the luckier among us never had to cope with — of struggling to reconcile the desire to be good and do right with the just-plain-wrongness of the path the adults around her have put her on. Well-intentioned those adults may be, and they may genuinely love and care for her, but they’ve got some fucked-up ideas about how the world works and what it means to live your best life… and it’s a joy to watch Moretz let bewildered Cameron blossom into poise and dignity as she begins to make up her own mind about the truth of who she is. (Cameron Post would make a sadly appropriate double feature with Apostasy, which is also about how parents and other adults who should know better put the imaginary demands of an imaginary god-friend above the needs of the children right in front of them who look to them for love and care.)

With her second feature, director Desiree Akhavan — who cowrote the script with Cecilia Frugiuele, based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth — finds an abundance of warmth and humanity in the absurdity of Cam’s situation. There was particular genius in casting Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck (The Revenant) as the two best friends Cam makes at God’s Promise; both young actors bring much-needed snarky disdain to their characters’ predicament, their easy confidence a wordless counter to the nonsense they are being taught. A nightmare this may be, but the resilience of Cam and her friends, and their support for one another, leaves us ultimately heartened that hate — even dressed up as love — will never win.

first viewed during the 2018 Sundance London film festival

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Stacy Livitsanis
Stacy Livitsanis
Sat, Sep 08, 2018 9:03am

Out of pure car-crash appalled fascination, I just watched Louis CK’s grotesque love letter to Woody Allen and his own supposedly self-flagellating ego, I Love You Daddy, in which Chloe Grace Moretz is introduced ASS FIRST. The first shot of her she’s seen from behind wearing a skimpy bikini. ….right. Moretz tries, but the part is empty.

To atone for that mistake, now I have to watch this film.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Stacy Livitsanis
Sun, Sep 09, 2018 3:14pm

I’m trying to decide whether I should watch that film…

Stacy Livitsanis
Stacy Livitsanis
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Sep 09, 2018 3:47pm

Honestly I wouldn’t have bothered with it if I hadn’t known about Louis CK’s gross behaviour. The well had already been poisoned, and I couldn’t watch it without constantly thinking about real life parallels. Seems Moretz has distanced herself from it. It was eye-rolling hearing some male critics bemoan its withdrawal, as if regardless of his actions Louis CK is entitled to continue making films and thrusting them upon us. Perhaps instead of desperately propping up the myth of the unfettered male artistic genius, those critics could investigate more films like Akhavan’s.

Speaking of that, did you hear about this?:

Don’t know how that story passed me by, as it’s bloody revealing of sexist bias.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Stacy Livitsanis
Mon, Sep 10, 2018 10:55am

Lots of women are making short films. Shorts are one of the entry points into the industry, and the number of women making them is a direct counter to the ridiculous notion that “women don’t want to make movies,” which is often offered as an “explanation” of why more women aren’t directing features. So it doesn’t surprise me that women do well at shorts festivals. But statistically speaking, few of them will be able to make the next step because the support won’t be there for them.

the myth of the unfettered male artistic genius

Yeah, but a lot of these male critics think they’re geniuses, too.

reply to  Stacy Livitsanis
Wed, Sep 12, 2018 11:18pm

Gross. Moretz is a gem wasted on that turd.

Miseducation, though, I’ll have to find on streaming or maybe the library.