Eye For Film >> Movies >> Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger (2008) Film Review
Esther Blueburger is that rare teenage film beast – one kids will enjoy but which also has enough heart and good sense to win parental approval. Esther is a typical 13-year-old, equipped with all the standard issue necessities for girls about to come of age on film – braces, pretty useless parents and a deep sense of loneliness.
She attends a private girls’ school, where everything from eating lunch to science lessons is carried out with military precision. Naturally, Esther – who seems for some reason to be the only Jewish kid on the school roll – hates it intensely, and takes what solace she can from a duckling snaffled from the science lab. But just when she thinks a feathered friend is all she can hope for, a chance encounter with Sunni, a kid from the local public school, marks the start of some proper comradeship.
Sunni is more worldly wise than Esther, thanks to her counter-culture mum (Toni Collette, proving yet again she can make something special out of even the smallest of roles), but she’s a good kid at heart. The remainder of the film charts the usual steps of friendship, fallings out and tragedy that touch everyone as they grow up.
There is a lot going on story-wise and writer/director Cathy Randall insists on a whistle-stop pace thanks to ‘pop video’ style montages which crop up periodically and act like ‘emotional place-holders’ indicating where Esther is at mentally – she flirts with bullying and boys, for example. Initially, this feels as though it will get in the way of character development - and it’s true that Esther’s rather distant, middle-class parents do feel like little more than ciphers - but these kids are most definitely all right.
Sunni is given some serious chutzpah by Keisha Castle-Hughes, whose acting improves with every film, while Danielle Catanzariti – making her debut here – is perfectly cast as Esther, utterly believable as an ordinary adolescent, with all the conflicts that entails. It also makes a welcome change that none of the girls here are drippy - even those who aren't in with the in crowd have a decent sense of self-worth.
There is plenty of absurd situational humour – from the prim and proper school choir singing House Of The Rising Sun a cappella style, to Esther’s dad giving her his tie at her bar mitzvah. There is no shying away from adult topics, but although things such as blow jobs are suggested, there’s nothing salacious here and while the language is fruity in places, it’s no worse than most 13-year-olds will hear every day at the school gate. Although perhaps laying on the ‘ugly duckling’ story a little thick, this is charming, funny and tear-jerky in all the right places. If you’re sick of Hollywood teen movies that can’t see past the end of their next tube of lip gloss, this Aussie alternative is well worth checking out.Reviewed on: 29 May 2009