Chloë Grace Moretz Faces Gay-Conversion Therapy in Delicate Drama ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’
In her most dramatic role yet, Chloë Grace Moretz portrays a high school student sent to gay conversion therapy in “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” Moretz plays the title character, a teenager whose life takes a dramatic turn after she is caught in an intimate moment with her best friend, Coley (Quinn Shephard) following a homecoming dance. 1993, the year in which the film is set, may not seem like that long ago, but considering what has been accomplished in terms of bringing LGBTQ issues to the forefront of the collective consciousness, it may have well have been another century. Shipped off by her guardian and aunt (Kerry Butler), to this camp run by so-called Christians, Cameron finds herself as she realizes that the adults around her, who use the Bible to suit their own purposes, are clueless.
Adapted from the 2012 novel of the same name by Emily M. Danforth, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is the second feature from filmmaker Desiree Akhavan.
“I hope this movie touches people personally,” Akhavan revealed to Entertainment Voice. “To me, it was always about that moment in your life where you’re coming of age and you realize that the adults in your life don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, and that you have to decide between right and wrong for yourself, and evil and good isn’t black and white. To me, it’s not about the politics behind it, and I hope people can humanize that particular struggle of gay conversion therapy, but also it’s about a bigger deal. It’s about growing up, and I think anyone can relate to that.”
Once at camp, Cameron finds herself bunking with the peppy Erin (Emily Skeggs), a sports enthusiast who speaks of her commitment to “beating” her homosexuality. Erin is the perfect foil to Moretz’s more withdrawn Cameron, and the spunky girl takes a liking to her roommate.
Programed daily to feel guilty for their natural desires, what the young “disciples” go through is made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that a number of them are devoted Christians who earnestly believe that the adults in charge of them, including “ex-gay” Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), have their best interests at heart. As Rick’s backstory involve his being “saved” after a few men from his church discover him at a gay bar, he serves as comic fodder until tragedy strikes.
For Akhavan, it was important to stay empathetic to each character, including Rick.
“It’s life and death, with a lot of these kids,” she explained.
Cameron finds kindred spirits in two other “disciples,” weed-growing amputee Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck), a Native American who was raised to believe his gender expression is the result of having two-spirits, until his parents’ stern Christianity overtook tribal beliefs. Outsiders in a camp for outsiders, the trio prove to have resilient spirits that lead to an inspiring climax.
Mark (Owen Campbell), isn’t so lucky. After his preacher father makes a devastating decision, the young man resorts to drastic measures, but not before a stirring scene in which he recites his favorite Bible verse, his pain palaple as he deals with his persecution.
“I think art has an amazing ability to provide us with answers we’re unable to see in our own regular lives,” Campbell told Entertainment Voice. “And that’s going to be a variety of things for different people, but I hope that anyone who feels like they’re looking for a little something can find it through the clarity of art, and I hope maybe this can be a piece of that puzzle.”
The most enigmatic character in “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is Lydia (Jennifer Ehle), the stern therapist in charge of “curing” the campers. Lydia, whose has a close connection to Rick that is revealed midway through, is played brilliantly by Ehle. Akhavan spoke at length about working with the seasoned actress.
“Jennifer Ehle brought a lot of research in, and I remember she emailed me everyday before the shoot with just random questions — ‘Is Lydia a virgin? Where did she go to high school? At what age did she lose her virginity?’ — We had all of these theoretical conversations. I felt like she was somebody who built [brought] an entire history to the person she was portraying, and I had never see anyone do that. I really loved it.”
To understand the characters better, Akhavan and Moretz conducted first-hand research by interviewing survivors of gay conversion therapy.
“That was really informative,” said Akhavan of the experience. “And also scary, because they were quite young.”
Even more horrifying is the fact that while gay conversion therapy for minors have been banned in a number of states, the practice still continues in most.
“I hope that audiences are horrified by the fact that this is still practiced, while always taking away that there is human and hope in the bleakest places,” said Akhavan when asked what she hopes audiences take away from her film. “I think the moral of the film is that you create your own future. No matter what circumstances you are under, you are in charge of the story.”
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” opens Aug. 3 in New York, Aug. 10 in Los Angeles and select cities.