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This film is a smart, rueful and dead-on portrait of life's unending quest to fit in; and the girl who solves it by completely breaking out - introduces a feisty outsider hero unlike any other seen on screen. Esther Blueburger's quest begins when she escapes from her Bat Mitzvah party and is befriended by Sunni.., the effortlessly cool girl who is everything Esther thinks she wants to be. With the help of Sunni, Esther goes away from her ordinary life and leaves behind her malfunctioning Jewish family to hang out with Sunni's far breezier and super-hip single mom Mary and attend Sunni's forbidden public school as a Swedish exchange student. Written by
When Jacob and Esther are pretending to be their parents at the dining table and Jacob slides the salt and pepper towards Esther, in the next shot the salt and pepper are seen passing each other going in different directions. See more »
[introducing herself to the public school English class]
Blueberger. Err-Blueberzh. Er-Blueberg. Ger-Blueberrrrrr. Rger-BlueBUH. Erger-Blueb. Berger-Blue. Eberger-BLUH. Ueberger-Bllll. Lueberger-Buh. Blueberger.
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Some interesting things to say but it's unsure just how to say them
Esther Blueburger (Danielle Catanzariti) is thirteen. She's from a Jewish family and attends a private school where she's an outsider. Her classmates cartwheel, dance and eat with geometric precision, while the victimised Esther spends her lunchtimes watching them from the confines of an upper-storey classroom.
Esther crosses paths with Sonni (Keisha Castle-Hughes), an offbeat teen who attends a neighbouring State school. A friendship develops and it's not long before Esther decides to enrol at Sonni's school, without her parents knowing. There she enjoys a newfound popularity and very quickly uses it to victimise other outsiders. This doesn't impress Sonni one bit.
The awkwardly-titled HEY HEY IT'S ESTHER BLUEBURGER sits uncomfortably between a Saturday morning children's television show and a more intense, coming-of-age drama. The supporting characters, like Esther's gullible parents, teachers and peers are caricatures, which is quite alright as they represent real people with which we're familiar. Esther's change of schools is far too easy for her. While many obvious questions about this are left unaddressed, we're willing to accept it because we understand this approach to story telling.
But when Esther tries to prove her worth by fellating a boy in a dark alley one night, it just doesn't gel with what's gone before. It feels as though the screenplay needed some toughening up and the writer responded by throwing in this seriously out-of-place scene. And surely someone must have pointed out at the script stage that this would severely restrict the film's target audience, the tweens. (Footnote: Does anyone remember an equally unnecessary fellatio scene in Michael Thornhill's BETWEEN WARS (1974)?)
Esther loses her appeal as the film progresses and we really don't care for her at all by the end. Yes, teenage years are confusing times but her use of her new popularity to belittle others makes her unlikeable. The rift between Esther and Sonni is of Esther's making. And the friendship between the two isn't explored anywhere near as well as it could have been. Neither is the difference between private and State schools. Neither is Esther's religion. The sad tale of Esther's duck, however, is most effective.
Toni Collette appears briefly as Sonni's "cool" biker Mum. But the situation involving her character at the film's end is also gravely misplaced. So too is the final school assembly scene but by this stage, anything goes.
HEY HEY IT'S ESTHER BLUEBURGER is the work of first-time writer/director Cathy Randall and first-time producer Miriam Stein. It shows. Comparisons to THE BLACK BALLOON, another recently released, coming-of-age Australian film are to be expected. THE BLACK BALLOON is vastly superior because its screenwriters have a much keener sense of character construction and plot development.
HEY HEY IT'S ESTHER BLUEBURGER has some interesting things to say but it's unsure just how to say them. And I'm tired of films where the story continues as the credits roll. It's a sign of indecisiveness. Do we really need to hear about Esther's braces being removed? Maybe it makes a difference to the next boy she blows in a back alley.
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