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Film Reviews: The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, Under The Wire and American Animals

Outsiders: (from left) Forrest Goodluck, Sasha Lane and Chloë Grace Moretz

THE BIG RELEASE

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post

(15) ★★★★✩

THE five-star ratings spangling the posters risk overhyping the subtle charms of this coming-of-age US teen movie. It’s pretty hard to get blown away by a movie so studiously understated.

It’s prom night, 1993, when 17-year-old Cameron (Chloë Grace Moretz) is busted while making out with another girl in the back of her car. As a result, Cam’s loving aunt ships her off to God’s Promise, a gay conversion camp run by a Christian psychologist (Jennifer Ehle) who aims to cure (ie brainwash) Cam out of her ‘same-sex attraction’.

Once there, however, a shell-shocked Cam quickly falls in with the ‘wrong’ crowd — namely the camp’s two non-white outsiders, a one-legged stoner who goes by the name of ‘Jane Fonda’ (American Honey’s Sasha Lane) and a self-styled Navajo ‘two-spirit’ (Forrest Goodluck). That they are all Instagram-shatteringly beautiful threatens the movie’s realism but you can forgive that in a Girl, Interrupted kind of way.

Based on Emily Danforth’s YA bestseller, the story may sound sensational but the treatment determinedly is not. The sharp, irreverent humour recalls the tone of fellow YA hit The Fault In Our Stars and the script steers away from broad strokes or predictable beats. Moretz is tested by a role that requires her to be so shut down and monosyllabic that it remains tricky — even when she gets her big declaration moments — for the audience to ever tell what’s going on inside her head. However, the Kick-Ass and Carrie star is never less than magnetic.

Director Desiree Akhavan introduced her film at its Sundance premiere as being the queer John Hughes movie of her dreams.

The honest depiction of lesbian sex is quietly groundbreaking for being shot by a gay woman and the eroticism is genuinely steamy. The timely message about defining your own sexuality and staying true to it whatever adult authorities say is also surely one that every teen can relate to.

The Verdict

So-hip-it-hurts indie teen movie set in a gay conversion camp.

Under The Wire

(15) ★★★★✩

Fearless and incredibly driven, Marie Colvin was the legendary eyepatch-sporting foreign correspondent who was killed, aged 56, while reporting on the Syrian civil war in Homs in 2012.

To know more about Colvin the woman you’ll need to wait for the biopic starring Rosamund Pike. Instead, Chris Martin’s gripping documentary plunges into the hellish risks of what was to be Colvin’s final mission into Syria, where she was, as ever, accompanied by photographer Paul Conroy, the gruff Scouse ex-army man on whose memoir this is based. Conroy is a compelling storyteller and Martin’s nerve-shredding blend of shaky front-line footage and emotionally charged first-person accounts are the nearest most of us will ever get to a war zone.

Colvin and Conroy were united by a burning responsibility to tell the stories of ‘the little people’, the women and children left abandoned and often hopeless in the face of conflict. Essential viewing.

American Animals

(15) ★★★★★

In 2004, four Kentucky friends plotted to steal millions of dollars of rare art books from a university library. Why did these well-educated young men set about such an endeavour? Writer-director Bart Layton delves into the details, as genial art student Spencer (Barry Keoghan) and restless egomaniac Warren (Evan Peters) bring meaning to their lives by daring to dream of committing such an exceptional act.

So far, so familiar. The heist movie is a well-worn genre — one where the audience can’t help rooting for the protagonists, seduced by their sheer inspired audacity. The trick of American Animals is that the film creates powerfully gripping drama, even as we inwardly beg for the lads to call a halt.

Along the way, Layton cleverly weaves in the real-life perpetrators commenting on the action. He makes us see that real life is not the movies, and crimes are messy, painful and mired in regret. CHARLES GANT