Oh Dear, there’s a Poo in the room but no-one wants to admit it
The dowager couple of reviewers from SBS’ Movie Show, and lately of the ABC’s ‘At the Movies’, David and Margaret, are as traditional and as reliable as PlaySchool’s Teddy and Jemima. Yin and Yang; Hall and Oates; Choc and Ice; Yoda (Margaret) and Wookie (David).
However, I wouldn’t be the first semi-regular viewer to notice that they tend to add on anywhere from one to four stars if the movie they’re reviewing happens to be Australian.
For example, ‘Praise’. It got awarded four or five stars, yet involved an amoral slut with a scratch-til-you-see-blood excesma problem who moves in with a bloke so comatose he can barely inhale his next Winnie blue. Or Jimeoin’s ‘The Craic’ – 3 stars for a film that was about as funny as a cot death in a kindergarten.
So why should I have been surprised that they gave ‘Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger’ three-and-a-half sodding stars?
Here I present the evidence:
Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger - Review by David Stratton
13-year-old Esther Blueburger, played by DANIELLE CATANZARITI (Kath: please stop yelling David, besides you mispronounced her surname on telly anyway) lives with her parents, ESSIE DAVIS and RUSSELL DYKSTRA, and twin brother, CHRISTIAN BYERS, in a smart suburban house and is preparing for her bat-mitzvah.Esther is the odd girl out at a posh private school. She gets bullied and teased and has no friends, hence no-one to invite to her bat-mitzvah party – until she meets Sunni, (KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES), who encourages Esther to enrol in the public school she attends, a change Esther conceals from her family.
Writer-director Cathy Randall has come up with a very clever idea for this cheerful comedy – a comedy which incorporates dramatic elements. TONI COLLETTE appears in another Aussie Mum role, after THE BLACK BALLOON, as Sunni’s bike-riding, tolerant mother, very different from Esther’s uptight parents. The performances are delicious. Diminutive DANIELLE CATANZARITI is terrific as the resourceful Esther as is KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES, of WHALE RIDER fame, as her new-found friend. The Scope screen is intelligently used and when the film shifts into drama it does so effortlessly. A few quibbles arise but this is the second high quality Aussie film this year, and that’s a cause for celebration.
A few quibbles….! A FEW quibbles!!???? That’s like saying Paris Hilton likes to go out walking with the local lads after Sunday mass some afternoons....! By this stage I was sitting there with my mouth open in dismay and utter shock. Having drool on my knees didn’t make it a pretty sight for Love Chunks and he kept telling me, “It’s only an opinion you know,” before David and Margaret both gave it Three and a half stars.
Afterwards they wittered on:
MARGARET: Yes, it's got a real eccentricity about it, this film. (Crap blended in a mixmaster by a nervous epileptic is the way I'd describe it if I was allowed to)
DAVID: It is, yeah.
MARGARET: You know conceptually and in the way it's directed and in these creations of characters (Your niece has obviously graduated from her movie course, David).
DAVID: Mmm (Yes, but I dread family slide nights now).
MARGARET: But I agree with you. I think they carry it off really well. I think Toni Collette's amazing. You know, she just has a small role in this and she's just so good in everything.
DAVID: Yeah, she is. She's terrific, yes. (Yes, she is, but she's only on for about five minutes and was one of the producers. Aussie tax dodge anyone?)
MARGARET: She's, you know, I haven't seen her put a footstep wrong, you know.
DAVID: But I thought this was a very intriguing film because it does go off in quite unexpected directions. (It certainly smelled 'off' from every direction.)
DAVID: It's by no means a traditional teenage comedy, although there are elements...
MARGARET: No, and it's actually quite discomforting at times... (Most times. How on earth could such shite be funded when there are some startlingly talented writers out there eking a rent cheque by working as speech writers for government gonzos or taking tickets for Fringe shows?)
DAVID: It is, yeah.
MARGARET: ...in the way it does that.
DAVID: And I like that about it, actually.
MARGARET: Yes, so do I. I like that challenge (....of trying to say something positive about something I'd dearly like to wipe my arse on).
DAVID: Mmm. (how much did they say they'd pay us for saying this nice stuff?)
MARGARET: Look, I think that maybe this is a good year for Australian film.
DAVID: Well, let's hope so. It's starting off well, isn't it? (Are you on drugs?)
MARGARET: Yes. (I want what they're having).
This is how I saw it when I was sat in the wasteland of the Greater Union Cinema in the piss-stained end of Hindley Street last Monday morning:
The star power of Toni Collette and Keisha Castle-Hughes might have got this movie made but their talent can’t save this soggy mess of a burger. Newcomer Danielle Catanzariti stars as Esther in this disjointed, supposedly quirky Australian coming-of-age tale that only serves to explain just why audiences are avoiding home-grown movies in droves. It simply does not work on any level.
The acting is unconvincing and the secondary characters are mere caricatures that don’t provide any humor or reality to the story. The script itself is excruciatingly awkward and does not possess a shred of genuine comedy or insight. Any sadness or confusion experienced by Esther towards the end of the movie is contrived to the point of irritation: we no longer believe or care about whatever teenage confusion she’s supposedly going through. Even the continuity is riddled with mistakes: her fall off the school stage (after being allowed, without any interruption, to disrupt the school assembly and speak nonsense for far too long), shows her about to land on her back but the next scene sees Esther in bed with a black eye.
It’s a sad day for Australian cinema when the best part of a movie is the cute yellow duckling – before it is killed and plucked for biology class. "
During the screening, one of the other three reviewers present stood up in disgust and yelled out, "THIS IS CRAP!", to which we all heartily agreed and then proceeded to comment loudly throughout the remainder. The other guy in black muttered, "Does the person who wrote this s**t even know how kids think?" No wonder we were given 24 pages of utter dreck about how hilarious the actors' found the script and how they looked at 3,000 girls before Esther was found - they hoped we'd just scab a few words out of the future budgie-cage liners and not bother to watch the actual celluloid suckfest.
Since then, I have only seen one review online and that was for a piece on the Berlin film festival earlier this year. Nothing by the Traumatiser (like that one, Redcap) or the Sunday Fail but that's understandable seeing as only a year ago they breathlessly asked their readers to let them know if they clapped eyes on Toni Collette whilst she was filming in our fair city. Still, even the usually-groovy-but-honest Empire magazine hasn't reviewed it yet. Hmmmm, I wonder why not….?