After the Campaign

After the Campaign: Miss Stevens

Miss Stevens got a small but charming campaign late last year that emphasized star Lily Rabe in the title role. The promise to the audience was that we would follow Miss Stevens in a low-key and charming story about growing up, whether that means you’re 18 or 29.

The story follows Stevens as she chaperones a small school trip, accompanying three students to a local dramatic competition. While on the trip she has to deal with a lovelorn boy, a perfectionist girl and another boy who has behavior issues along with a crush on his teacher. Over the course of the weekend they spend a lot of time together, which increases tension on all fronts as they all try to figure out what a grownup means.

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Rabe is fantastic here. She absolutely commands the screen and your attention in a way that’s unexpected considering her small, wispy appearance. She looks like she’s always in danger of collapsing into herself and disappearing entirely but still manages to dominate the action that’s appearing on screen. She makes Stevens someone who is understandable, even if her missteps, mistakes and faults keep trying to make her unlikable in the eyes of the audience.

And she makes plenty of mistakes along the way, violating almost every rule that anyone who’s ever chaperoned a school outing is given. Despite that, she does almost everything out of desire to do what’s best for the kids, a tendency that seems to stem from her own insecurities in life and her inability to see herself as the adult in the room.

The campaign, particularly the trailer, does a decent job of selling this to the audience. Stevens’ relationship with Billy, a young student with some behavioral issues who may have a crush on her, is played a little more extremely in the marketing than it actually comes off in the movie but there’s still plenty of lines being blurred here and there between the two. That doesn’t form the key of the story, though, at least not as much as Stevens’ brief fling during the field trip with another teacher that comes with scads of complications. It’s odd, then, that that fling is given short shrift in the trailer.

Miss Stevens is streaming on Netflix now.

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