Directed by Julia Hart
Released September 20, 2016
The line between teenager and adult is usually defined only by age, which doesn’t necessarily reflect one’s actual maturity. In school, adults often have the benefit of being teachers where the teenagers are students. Field trips are a fantastic opportunity for those lines to be blurred, especially when teachers and students stay in hotel rooms for conferences and competitions. “Miss Stevens” follows a seemingly put-together teacher whose life begins to unravel when she chaperones three teenagers on a trip to a drama competition that brings plenty of tensions to the surface.
Rachel Stevens (Lily Rabe) is initially introduced as a mild-mannered teacher who is the happy-go-lucky volunteer to go with students Margot (Lili Reinhart), Billy (Timothée Chalamet), and Sam (Anthony Quintal) to compete in a drama competition. Margot tells Miss Stevens how much they appreciate her coming, and things go considerably downhill from there as soon as they hit the road. Simple things like Miss Stevens not checking an orange light that comes on in her car lead to considerable delays, and her decision to drink multiple glasses of wine at dinner with her underage companions is just one indicator that Miss Stevens may not be as in control – or as grown up – as she seems to be or should be given her role.
This is a very simple story that never experiences too much excitement or emotion. Interactions occur and conversations takes place with little energy or emphasis, with no truly horrific developments or decisions made by any of the parties. A brewing friendship between Billy, who is already behind academically and is taking major medications, and Miss Stevens, threatens to cross an inappropriate line, and in this film’s small universe, not much stands in the way other than hotel room doors and just a little bit of common sense.
Rabe, who starred on ABC’s short-lived “The Whispers” and has been a long-term player on “American Horror Story,” has a likeable persona that serves her well as an endearing if certainly imperfect protagonist trying to figure out where her life has gone wrong and whether she’s revealed too much of herself on this educational outing. She has good support from the young actors opposite her and Rob Huebel as a potential love interest. The performers are decent but the film unfortunately doesn’t catch fire, chronicling as a moderately entertaining but forgetting journey.