Directed by Cathy Randall, Hey, Hey It’s Esther Blueburger is a wonderful coming-of-age comedy from Australia that you can’t help but love, even if the movie is far from perfect. The story isn’t all that fresh, as is the case with most coming-of-age stories, but the witty dialogue and excellent visuals help separate it from the rest of the pack and put it on a level just a rung lower than similar movies like Juno and Mean Girls, which this movie was certainly influenced by.
Esther Blueburger (Danielle Catanzariti) is your typical outcast. She attends a private school for girls in which uniformity is key and everybody is the same. She has strict and proper parents and the family is devoutly Jewish. Her brother is seemingly a genius, and nobody else around her seems to have any idea as to what the word “fun” means. Esther, however, is none of these things. She’s a loner, her best friend is a duck aptly named Normal, and she talks to God through a toilet. And it seems like the only things she wants in life is to be able to fit in somewhere, and for that to happen, a big change is needed.
Fortunately for her, that change comes in the way of an unexpected friend. After none of her school friends show up to her Bat Mitzvah, Esther appears ready to just run away from everything. And in her attempt, she runs into the strange and offbeat Sunni (Keisha Castle-Hughes). What is first a bizarre meeting quickly turns into a great friendship. Sunni is everything that Esther dreams of being. She attends a public school, dresses however she likes, does whatever she wants to do, and has a great mother at home that wants to be just as crazy and cool as she wants to be. Sunni and her mom (Toni Collette) are the definition of cool in Esther’s eyes, and once introduced into their world, Esther doesn’t want to go back. She goes as far as even secretly changing schools, telling her former school that she “moved to Sweden”.
Up until this point, the screenplay is absolutely wonderful. It’s witty, creative, and really helps establish that Esther is in a world of her own. I couldn’t help but love where the story was going. Unfortunately, like most movies in it’s genre, it eventually follows a formulaic plot in which the two best new friends end up fighting. I’m not against this happening, because that’s naturally what happens. But it seemed very forced, in both the writing and the acting, and the movie starts to move downhill from there. The film does try and save itself with a big twist towards the ending, but it’s too little too late. If they had moved the event towards the middle of the film, it would’ve created more interest for the second half of the film and would’ve fit better into what the movie was trying to convey.
The principal acting was wonderful. Catanzariti plays the lone wolf to perfection, and has a great chemistry with her character’s twin brother, Jacob (Christian Byers). Jacob doesn’t get too much screen time, but he does represent the one person in the household that Esther can relate to. Some of you may recall Castle-Huges from Whale Rider, and she’s wonderful here as the eccentric Sunni. She makes it very believable as to why Esther would want to be just like her, giving the audience every reason to like her. Toni Collete shines as Sunni’s mother in the movie, playing a kid trapped in an adult’s body. A wonderful 1-2 punch the mother and daughter help deliver. Along with the wonderful acting, the visuals that help tell the story are wonderfully done, especially the opening five minutes that help establish exactly how Esther’s life really is. The soundtrack is also a treat, as they are most of the time with indie movies within this genre.
As you can tell, I had a wonderful time watching this movie. While it does follow the same formula as the movies before it, it’s witty and creative enough that it brings something new to the table and brings all level of enjoyment. While I do believe that the second half of the script should have been rewritten or shuffled around, this is still an excellent coming-of-age story that will bring a smile to your face.
Lesson of the Day: Naming a pet “Normal” will allow for several awkward but accidentally hilarious remarks
Notes: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief teen smoking.