In this wonderfully tender, autobiographical corning-of-age story, a precocious young girl made wise beyond her years from a bohemian upbringing is forced to adjust when she enters a wealthy private school. Stella’s parents run a work­ing-class bar filled with a revolving mix of artists, vagrants, and drunks, so though she is flunking out of school, she has gained an alternate education in card games, cocktails, and pop music. Her world-weary attitude writes off most of her classmates as impossibly dull. The one exception is her new friend Gladys, who introduces Stella to Cocteau and Balzac, and awakens a desire to escape the dissolute home life that continually threatens to drag her down. The film features stun­ning cinematography, with an ethereal light that makes even the grimy bar floors and wood-paneled hotel rooms look like beautiful postcards from a bygone era, and is backed by a superb instrumental soundtrack infused with French disco hits. But the true standout is newcomer Léora Barbara, whose multi­faceted performance as the wryly philosophical Stella is both prickly and lovable, a charming outsider you desper­ately want to succeed.

Comment, Film includes strong language, some sexual suggestive scenes, violence, and adults frequently smoking and drinking.­