Film Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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This film (an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Emily Danforth) was a bridge for me, into a world where I felt heard and seen. I had been yearning to see it for a while before I finally gained access to it. It was showing in only one theater in Boston, the historically indie Coolidge Corner theater. Going to that theater for the first time just to see this film felt like a pilgrimage. Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays the eponymous Cameron Post, has been an admirable force of nature for me since she delighted me in Kick-Ass. I have watched so much of her filmography since then, but no role has spoken to me as much as her character Cameron did.

 

Cameron Post is sent to a gay conversion camp for being caught having sex with a girl. Her discomfort in that space is palpable. Chloe Moretz is adept at using microexpressions to instill real feelings of awkwardness in the viewer. The camera, up close and personal, captures all of her wariness all over her face. The camp is honestly not too different from a glorified boarding school in high school, and the need to keep the kids under close watch was all too real for me. I could relate to the quiet chafing away at the kids’ souls.

 

So it was endlessly lovely to watch Cameron discover two kindred spirits in her new friends: Jane Fonda (a rosy Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (the intriguing Forrest Goodluck). My favorite part of The Miseducation of Cameron Post is the platonic intimacy it dwelled upon. In a world where parents would be so cruel to their kids, and love interests would throw their lovers under the bus to save themselves, her friends are patiently supportive, softly soothing, and provide much-needed levity and warmth.

 

An essential part of the film is the musical score. It swooped and dove along with the temp of the film, and reached a crescendo at the climactic turning point. I haven’t heard such a magnificent score for a film in a long time. The strings, in particular, were phenomenal. Along with the music, the tight shots gave the audience a sense of the claustrophobia of the camp for Cameron, combined with wide shots of Cameron’s secret hangout spots with her friends to signify a space where she could breathe. The golden lighting indoors was also a nice touch.

 

Some  critics of the film argue that the film is permissive of the evils of gay conversion camps. I disagree. Although the two heads of the camp, Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr) may have been portrayed “sympathetically”, the horrors of the camp are still felt. This is no cheery summer camp, even under the guise of karaoke nights and field trips. This film does not shy away from pointing out the lasting effects of emotional abuse on LGBTQ youth, or the kind of pain that is inflicted when they are taught to condemn the very essence of themselves. Cameron herself questions this at an important turning point in the film.

 

Cameron’s growth throughout the film places it firmly as a coming-of-age masterpiece. She starts out tightly wound shut, unwilling and unable to unveil her true feelings and beliefs. By the end of the film, she is open and unafraid, seizing her life into her own hands. She moves away from withdrawing from the program internally, to proactively deciding she deserves better. The final shot of the film is seared into my brain. Cameron’s friends are looking up, hopeful, dreamy, content, while Cameron is leaning on them, her expression one of resolution instead of abject discomfort. She has grown up.

 

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Grade: A

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Call Me By Your Name Review: Gorgeous Summer Sensuality in the Depths of Winter

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I still can’t place my finger on when exactly I first heard about “Call Me By Your Name.” There has been buzz surrounding it for nearly a year since its January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. All I knew about it was that it was set in Northern Italy and was about two young men who fall in love. What really drew me to it was the lush cinematography of the early promotional clips. My mind was set—I had to watch it as soon as I was able.

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This summer, the “Call Me By Your Name” hype grew and I was bursting at the seams to watch it. Reviewers were describing it as “tantalizing” and “sensual” and “summery.” It promised to be a visual feast with a beguiling love story. It also promised to be raw and heart-wrenching. The wait was excruciating.

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Finally, the time I had basically been waiting for all year arrived. It was November, I was in London and “Call Me By Your Name” had just come out in the UK a couple of weeks before. I was ecstatic. I got tickets to see it at the Curzon Cinema in Soho, a member of a arthouse cinema chain. The environment was relaxed and perfect—cushy seats, chill ambience and a packed theater full of other eager moviegoers.

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It’s hard to put into words how much I adored “Call Me By Your Name.” It’s genteel, refined and intellectually stimulating.

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The cinematography really sold the summer languor of the film, focusing on luscious, verdant pastoral views and casting the characters in an incandescent light. Every scene during the day was aglow with golden natural light, and the mood was somnolent. The night scenes were humming with barely contained energy, softly lit with hallowed coloring. The setting—a small town in Northern Italy in the 1980s—was picture perfect.

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It is set at the home of the Perlmans. The son, Elio Perlman, is home for the summer when he meets Oliver, an American PhD student who is studying the Classics with Elio’s father and residing with the Perlmans for the summer. And so ensues the pas de deux, a clandestine dance between the two love interests as they skirt around their feelings for each other. Elio (Timothee Chalamet) possesses an almost bird-like fragility, prone to sudden spurts of energy and flightiness. Oliver (Armie Hammer) is larger than life, filling up every room enters with his presence.

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Elio is the definition of precocious. He transcribes classical music, performs renditions of classics on the piano and reads and reads and reads. He is graced with intellectual precision. To him, at first, the burly American is uncouth and brusque. They are stark opposites, yet their chemistry is electric. Chalamet’s acting as the lovelorn Elio is magnificent. The sharp interest in his gaze when watching Oliver is palpable.

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This is a film that forces you to feel every single emotion displayed on screen. It holds your feelings hostage. And so, as it seeped with romance, I could feel my own heart spilling over. I felt the dizziness and the grandeur of that summer love. The scenes between Elio and Oliver as they discovered the depths of their feelings for each other had the wispy air of a dream. If you’re a hopeless romantic, you’ll be squealing internally. The sexual chemistry burns fiery hot and their mutual desire is as succulent as the fruits that thematically pop up throughout the film.

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Yet, with the highs come the lows, and Oliver must return to America at the end of the summer. This was the emotional weight of the film, and it wrung my heart out. Chalamet portrays a young man losing his emotional center with a sincerity that is absolutely heartbreaking. Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) gives a truly sagacious monologue to Elio towards the end of the film that touches the soul and which I believe truly encapsulates the weight of first love.

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There were points in the film when I just wanted to bottle up the feelings I had in response to the imagery and keep them close to me forever. The music only heightened those feelings; the soundtrack was blessed with three songs from Sufjan Stevens (my personal favorite being the lugubrious Visions of Gideon), an artist that is able to transmit delicate love in his craft. The final scene was the most poignant and deeply moving of the entire film. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that it will hit you in waves of emotion that you may have even forgotten how to feel.

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If you love visually, intellectually and emotionally stimulating films, you will find all that and more in “Call Me By Your Name.”

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Side Note: How they make the simple act of biking look so spellbinding?

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10/10 Stars

Film Review: Far From the Madding Crowd: Endearing Feminist Romance

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I have a confession to make: I really, really, really love Period Dramas. There’s just something about history that I’m so transfixed by: the fashion, the scenery, the old customs. It’s enchanting to me.

When I heard about Far From the Madding Crowd, I was thrilled. It wasn’t just that it was a period drama. I was drawn to the heroine’s description as headstrong and independent. Bathsheba Everdene (played by the dainty Carey Mulligan) was a woman who could take care of herself in a society that dictates that women be taken care of. I couldn’t wait to watch that unfold onscreen, being a feminist and all.

Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan during the filming of an adaptation of the novel Far from the Madding Crowd in Sherborne, Dorset. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 20, 2013. Some scenes from the adaptation of the classic Thomas Hardy novel are being filmed in part of the town which has been transformed to fit the Victorian setting of the film. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
Hollywood starlet Carey Mulligan during the filming of an adaptation of the novel Far from the Madding Crowd in Sherborne, Dorset. Photo credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

There was also the not one, not two, but THREE (yes, three!) love interests for one heroine. The hopeless romantic that I am, I was almost giddy with excitement.

So how did Far From the Madding Crowd fare?

I found the background music heavenly, enamored with the violin and piano sounds.

All the main characters were just so pretty and handsome. There was a lot of really good eye-candy with such a beautiful cast. All three love interests (played by Matthias Schoenartes, Tom Sturridge, and Michael Sheen) were exceptionally dashing, charming, and disarming in their own different ways.

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I was overjoyed to watch a feminist lead character. She was independent, the boss, owned property, and didn’t need “things” from a man to marry him. I admired her self-sufficiency and strength greatly.

The scenery was so gorgeous: rollicking hills, luscious green pastures, and tranquil bodies of water. Being an artsy person, I was really enchanted by the interior designs – artful with grandeur. I love really stately interior designs in my period dramas, and was blown away by the elegance in Far From the Madding Crowd.

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I was especially enamored with the moving romance at the center of the movie. It was long-lasting and touching with a beautiful ending of endearing passion and love. The sexual tension was drawn out for maximum effect. Bathsheba Everdene finally got with the one man who’d stuck with her through thick and thin. It was so sweet. The secondary romance was a tragic love pulling at my heartstrings, which hit me deep.

A particular quote stood out to me, spoken by Bathsheba, my feminist heroine: “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs.” So thought provoking.

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I’d give Far From the Madding Crowd a 10/10. It is a magnificently directed film with a very aesthetically pleasing cinematography. I feel like it told a great love story and really enjoyed the feminist values. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who loves period dramas, strong female leads, and heartwarming romance.

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Admittedly, I read this classic for my English class, American Literature, my junior year. Yet, I felt the pressing need to talk about this riveting book as it completely captured my imagination. This holiday, I watched the modern remake of the movie based on the Great Gatsby, and it seems necessary to compare and contrast the two: The Book, and The Movie starring the striking Leonardo diCaprio.

THE BOOK

The narrator is an impressionable, analytical, judgmental young man who recently moved to the East to find glamor and adventure. He represents the young souls in all of us, eager for romance and excitement, yet judgmental of the people caught up in that lifestyle. He is the outsider, watching the lives of other people unfurl around him in New York City. Our narrator, Nick Carraway, is the voice of the readers themselves.

The main character of the story is actually the enigmatic Jay Gatsby, one of the nouveau-riche of West Egg, thrower of lavish parties and owner of a vast amount of wealth. No one could figure out where exactly the wealth came from, which intensified the mystery encompassing Gatsby. Nick Carraway is the next door neighbor who watches the parties from afar until he is invited by Gatsby himself. He is thrown into the prodigality of the Jazz Age: 1920’s America, where the only concern is having fun dancing and drinking.

On the other end is West Egg of the wealthy people of old money, inherited wealth. Here we are introduced by Nick to Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Tom is your typical Alpha male douchebag who peaked in high school/college, while Daisy can best be described as a delicate flower, ditzy and romantic.

The epic romance unfurls as Nick discovers that Daisy and Gatsby used to be lovers until they were tragically separated when Gatsby went off to war. Daisy, as a rich young and beautiful socialite, was pressured into marrying a wealthy man (Tom) by her mother. What really got me was how Gatsby had purposely gotten a mansion right opposite Daisy’s in order to be secretly near her. He threw all those parties just to get her attention, hoping that she would stop by sometime, but she never did. That was literally the cutest thing I had ever read.

So Gatsby gets Nick to invite Daisy over to HIS house for tea, so he, Gatsby, could kind of just ‘drop in’ and run into Daisy again. Gatsby was so nervous about it and wanted everything to be perfect for their run-in. On the day, Gatsby is a nervous wreck, and I just found it so adorable, how much he cared about Daisy and what she thought. When Daisy arrives, at first its awkward, but then they start talking to each other like old times, and my heart is literally bursting with joy for them and their young love renewed.

The really sad thing, however, is how Gatsby wants to repeat the past, before he went to war, and fix it by having Daisy tell him she never loved Tom, only him, and by marrying Daisy. It’s also romantic but so tragic because you can;t repeat the past, and it’s heart breaking to see Gatsby get his hopes up. Nick, like us, knows Gatsby can’t fix the past, and tells him so, but Gatsby stubbornly wants to believe that he can.

Gatsby and Daisy become clandestine lovers and Daisy so much as comes to one of Gatsby’s parties with Tom, and sneak off with Gatsby.

It all comes to a head when Gatsby goes over for tea or whatever at the Buchanans’ house, and Tom has already suspected him and Daisy of hating something. The air is steely and tense. Daisy can’t stand it (she can’t cope with difficult situations) and asks if they can go into the city. They go, and Gatsby and Tom start arguing, for goodness sake! Gatsby ends up telling Tom that Daisy never loved him, and only loved him, Gatsby. Daisy echoes Gatsby’s statement, but half-heartedly, which already rang warning bells in my mind. As the fight goes on, Daisy finally admits that she had loved Tom, once, but she loved Gatsby too, and tells Gatsby that he’s asking for too much from her. By this time, I was sick of snivelly, oh-I’m-too-fragile-for-this-I-can’t-handle-it Daisy.

The fight between Tom and Gatsby thickens as Tom reveals what he’s discovered about Gatsby. He’s a bootlegger! That was where he got all his money from! The moment Daisy realizes Gatsby’s not of her social standing, she shrinks away from him, even as he pleads with her and denies everything (lying). Daisy, so typically, practically runs back to Tom to take her away from this HORRIFYING experience and Tom revels in his victory.

To cut the long story short, Gatsby dies for Daisy, it’s all very tragically romantic, and when I was reading it I was literally so surprised because I wasn’t even sure if he was dead or not, but then he was, and it was SO sad. Daisy doesn’t so much as come to the phone when Nick tries to call her, and she doesn’t come for Gatsby’s funeral either.

So I guess the moral of this story is rich girls don’t marry poor guys, which is funny, because that is exactly what happened to the author, Scotty here. Or the moral is that Daisy was a heartbreaking bitch, Tom was an asshole, and Gatsby was a hopeless fool in love.

THE MOVIE

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I know a lot of people who read the book hated the 2013 adaptation of the movie, but I LOVED it. It blew me away and I was completely enchanted from start to finish.

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Tobey Maguire is Nick Carraway, and he was so brilliant at being the wallflower kind of guy, who saw everything but didn’t really do anything. He said direct quotes from the book, poignant observations from Nick in the book and their apt time in the movie. I was so thrilled!

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The effects made everything look larger than life, which is exactly how it was meant to be. It was incredible seeing the Buchanan’s house visually represented because I could see now just how lavishly wealthy they were, how huge and magnificent a house they had.The parties were over the top, so amazing, really reinforcing how brilliant they were in the book. They did a GREAT job at that; the ostentatious opulence.

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Joe Edgerton as Tom was perfect. He looked like an asshole, he talked like an asshole, he oozed hateability through every pore. Carey Mulligan as Daisy was flawless. She was just as I imagined her, all delicate and elegant, pale and doe-eyed, with a cute nub for a nose and classy, classic beauty. She was just the right amount of ditzy and shrewd. Gatsby took the cake. Leonardo diCaprio was Gatsby, and my fangirl heart melted. He was dapper, he was charming, he was arrestingly cute, and just pure Gatsby.

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I was really happy how they basically followed the book, but with little variations here and there that didn’t take away from the surprise. Sure, it wasn’t always word-for-word like the older adaptation, but really, what did you expect in this modern day? The only thing that I didn’t like was how they didn’t show Daisy’s daughter. Apart from that, the movie was splendid.

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Rating: 8/10