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:: Hey, Hey It’s Esther Blueburger

Hey, Hey It’s Esther Blueburger is a rite of passage black comedy which is told in an unconventional manner. The film stars Danielle Catanzariti as Esther Blueburger, a social outcast at her rigid private school and an afterthought amongst her dysfunctional Jewish family. When she strikes up a friendship with the rebellious Sunni (Keisha Castle Hughes) and her hipster mother Mary (Toni Collette), Esther begins to feel the effects of adolescence whilst leading a double life posing as a Swedish exchange student at a local public school.

Writer/director Cathy Randall had developed the script for this film over a number of years and she touches on a number of key and often taboo subjects. The collision of the lead characters religious and secular worlds makes for interesting viewing, and the increased sexualisation of young adolescence is met head on, yet handled tastefully. Also, parental responsibility is approached skilfully and represented by two different parties: Esther’s parents who are extremely controlling and Sunni’s mother who is to lax.

However, despite (or maybe because of) Randall’s many years of toiling over this screenplay, there are numerous flaws. Several moments has the film coming dangerously close to becoming a clichéd teen flick, and a number of predictable and ridiculous plot developments rob the film of its ability to become one of the better Australian films seen in some time. Also several odd scenes and bizarre character traits feel forced and almost runs the film aground.

But what does keep it afloat during these messy patches are the terrific performances by its cast, especially from young actress Danielle Catanzariti who is exceptional in her film debut, and more than holds up to Oscar nominees Keisha Castle Hughes and Toni Collette, who are both very good. A resolute if not erratic film, Hey, Hey It’s Esther Blueburger does leave an impression with its imaginative and brave approach to a stock standard story.