Kristen Stewart was as surprised as anyone that she won a French Cesar Award for her role in 'Clouds of Sils Maria.' Now she's getting acclaim in the U.S. (Photo: Getty)

Kristen Stewart was as surprised as anyone when she won a French Cesar Award for her role in ‘Clouds of Sils Maria.’ Now she’s getting acclaim in the U.S. (Photo: Getty)

Kristen Stewart’s acting career has followed a long road, from promising young upstart to blockbuster heroine in the “Twilight” series. But only now in her latest role in French film “Clouds of Sils Maria” is she finally being recognized as the serious actress she longs to be.

The movie opens in the United States this weekend to rave reviews that are nearly unanimous and Stewart is getting much of the credit.

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She’s already won a Cesar award, France’s equivalent of the Oscar, for best supporting actress. Now, she’s finally getting the critical acclaim in the United States that has so long eluded her.

If Stewart wants anything, it’s to be taken seriously as an actress and an artist. In that sense, she’s focused her career on indie flicks that tackle the human condition.

She won early plaudits as a child actress in the 2002 film “Panic Room” with Jodie Foster. She played Foster’s daughter. The crime drama, directed by David Fincher, also included Forest Whitaker and Jared Leto.

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Stewart also attracted attention for her small role in the 2007 film “Into the Wild,” written and directed by Sean Penn. The film was based on the life story of Christopher McCandless, who wandered across the United States and eventually made his way to Alaska, where he died in the wilderness.

Emile Hirsch played McCandless and Stewart played his love interest, a sort of counter-culture wild child who lived with her parents in a squatters encampment known as Slab City.

Then came “Twilight.” It was supposed to be a one-off, coming of age flick about an improbable love triangle between a teenager, a werewolf and a vampire. But the film became an international sensation, yielded four sequels and made Stewart internationally famous– and wealthy.

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But it took a toll on her reputation. The movies were universally panned by critics and she was pigeon-holed as an actress with limited range. Her next big budget movie “Snow White and the Huntsman” didn’t help.

Although she received top billing because of her “Twilight” popularity, she was overshadowed by Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, who stole the movie as the wicked queen. Her part seemed almost incidental in contrast.

She was dropped from the sequel, but, in retrospect, that was probably a blessing in disguise. She was able to concentrate on other films like “On the Road” “Camp X-Ray,” “Still Alice” and “Clouds of Sils Maria.”

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While she came into her own in the latter two films, she scored the breakthrough she’s been longing for in “Sils Maria.”

Like “Snow White,” Stewart, once again, was paired with powerhouse actresses, Juliette Binoche and the charismatic Chloë Grace Moretz. But this time, the outcome was different.

“Ms. Stewart easily holds both her own and the screen alongside Ms. Binoche, delivering the kind of emotionally translucent performance that first got her noticed as the girl with the guitar in “Into the Wild,” wrote Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, lauding the movie.

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The view was widely shared by other top critics.

“As stirring as Binoche is as Maria, Stewart is breathtaking as Valentine. Assayas uses the issues he parses in “Sils” to zero in on a personal-professional minefield that Stewart has navigated as well,” wrote Betsy Sharkey in The Los Angeles Times.

Overall, the film received a 90 rating on rottentomatoes, which tracks reviews and an 80 rating on metacritic.

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But most of all, it’s re-established Stewart’s reputation as a serious and credible actress. She gave another searing performance in “Still Alice” with Julianne Moore and has three other films in the works.

“Anesthesia,” “American Ultra” and “Equals” are all slated for release sometime this year.

Stewart has talked about taking some time off from acting. If she does, she should rest assured that she has established herself among Hollywood’s top young actresses.

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