SXSW Film Review: Miss StevensFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews, SXSW
By Sam Bathe on 13 Mar 2016

Inspired by co-written/director Julia Hart’s time as a teacher, Miss Stevens is a fantastically funny, touching and heartfelt coming-of-age comedy about a school trip to the state drama competition.

Played by the brilliant Lily Rabe, Miss Stevens never quite has it all together. Frustrated with aspects of her life, she’s not the perfect, preppy teacher you expect as a kid, her car’s filthy, and she still hasn’t found the right guy, but she loves her job and throws everything into it.

When the state drama competition comes around, she offers to chaperone three kids upstate to compete. Margot (Reinhart) is the perfect student, top of the class and getting ready for college, Sam (Quintal) is eccentric, billowing out his lines in the car, in the hallway, whenever he gets a spare minute, but Billy (Chalamet) comes with a warning from the principal. Though brilliant on stage, life at home is hard, and Billy acts out when things get frustrating, forcing Miss Stevens to stretch the boundaries of her work if she wants to bring him around.

Miss Stevens is a powerful and thoroughly entertaining film that depicts the messiness of teaching, and that most of the formative interaction teachers have with students happens outside of the classroom. The film stays on the right side of the line between a teacher and a student, but it certainly feels like an authentic portrayal of an elder who has to blur the lines of their responsibility to do the job.

Great credit must go to co-writers Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz for creating such fully fleshed-out characters. From the word go, you whole-heartedly believe in their emotions, their actions, their beliefs and each character has such a great arc throughout the movie. From Miss Stevens who must break down her facade in order to rebuild the core within, to Margot who learns how to deal with everything not always going to plan. These are living, breathing people you care about until the end.

In his professional acting debut, YouTube personality Anthony Quintal is brilliant, as are Timothée Chalamet and Lili Reinhart, though it’s Lily Rabe’s remarkable turn that steals the show. So powerful and yet so fragile, Rabe’s tender performance embodies everything that is so good about the movie.

Miss Stevens is a feel-good, coming-of-age comedy that is refreshingly honest and whose characters exist in the real world. This is  the sort of movie film festivals were made for, consistently funny and written and directed with real class. And for first-time filmmaker Julia Hart, it’s a remarkable achievement.


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