Miss Stevens is a small-scale but entertaining film that’s worth seeing for an incandescent performance by its star, Lily Rabe (the daughter of playwright David Rabe and the late Jill Clayburgh). Rabe is hardly a newcomer, having amassed a string of television and stage credits, but this leading role as a dedicated high-school teacher gives her a rare moment of her own in the spotlight.
Miss Stevens is a high-school English teacher in her late 20s who agrees to take three talented students on a weekend field trip to an acting competition. The kids try to learn more about her over the course of their road trip and cross some dicey boundaries. The younger actors (Timothée Chalamet, Lili Reinhart, and Anthony Quintal) are all good but it’s Rabe’s incredibly expressive face and body language—her behavioral approach to the character, who is fraught with uncertainties—that make the film so rewarding to watch.
Written by director Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz, Miss Stevens feels like a satisfying one-act play: not terribly deep but enjoyable on its own modest terms. It’s no surprise that Lily Rabe won the Best Actress Award at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival.
Miss Stevens opens in New York and Los Angeles today, Friday, September 16 and will be available on VOD beginning September 20.