Desiree Akhavan's Sundance-winning drama pulls back the curtain on gay-conversion camps, offering a valuable (albeit simplistic) alternative to self-questioning young viewers.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” takes place in the early ’90s, and it’s a shame neither the book nor the movie existed back then. That was before Ellen DeGeneres professed, “Yep, I’m Gay,” on the cover of Time magazine (1997), before a weekly sitcom called “Will & Grace” brought an openly gay character into primetime (1998), and of course, long before same-sex couples won the right to get married in all 50 states (2015). In the early ’90s, it was not a good idea to double-date to the school formal, then wind up making out with the prom queen in the back seat of your boyfriend’s car — which is the premise of both Emily M. Danforth’s novel and director Desiree Akhavan’s relatively flat adaptation thereof, a surprise winner at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival
When the orphaned Cameron does exactly that, her guardians send her to a Christian camp called God’s Promise, which specializes in gay conversion therapy. In much the way “Shock Corridor” examined mental institutions more than half a century ago, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is really about the misunderstanding of Cameron Post as parents, doctors, and so on struggle to curb certain desires that ultimately don’t need to be “fixed.” Luckily, no one’s threatening a lobotomy or genital-shock therapy here, although the movie — which would have been right at home on Lifetime two decades ago — respectfully argues that Christian organizations that force nonconforming kids to deny their true nature are no less macabre.
Such institutions still exist, and perhaps that’s why this film does, too, despite a wealth of more nuanced conflicted-orientation stories that have played Sundance over the past two decades — from “But I’m a Cheerleader,” a campy 1999 satire starring Natasha Lyonne as an all-American girl for whom boot camp backfires in a big way, to “I Am Michael,” in which James Franco played a gay activist who denounced his homosexuality and devoted himself to helping others beat the same “affliction.” Or maybe the point here is that Cameron never really questions her homosexuality, which is a progressive notion, but also dramatic poison to a movie about the religious brainwashing apparatus designed to “cure” adolescents of SSA (or “same-sex attraction”). Read more via Variety