Hey, Hey, It’s Esther Blueburger (2008) is an independent Australian film, a teenage comedy, starring newcomer Danielle Catanzariti as Esther Blueburger, a 13-year-old Jewish girl from a dysfunctional family. She has a twin brother, Jacob (Christian Byers), who is just as odd as she is. With her braces and spectacles and her strange behaviour, she is regarded as a nerd and scorned as an outsider by her fellow school pupils at her posh private girls’ school.
When her parents throw her a party to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah, she runs into Sunni (Keisha-Castle-Hughes), a spunky ‘cool girl’ from the nearby public school. They become friends, and work out a devious plan so that Esther can transfer from the private school to the public school, by pretending to be a Swiedish exchange student. Here, surrounded by very different kids, and finally part of the ‘cool group’ thanks to Sunni, Esther begins to come into her own and to gain confidence in herself.
Unfortunately, she also starts to behave in ways that do not exactly endear her to others – or to the viewer. It’s almost as though she overcompensates for years of being ignored, despised and derided, by becoming a bully herself. Sunni, who is genuinely sweet and compassionate underneath her spunky and playfully rebellious exterior, disapproves of this new Esther, and tells her as much.
On the whole, it is a funny and tender coming-of-age movie, despite a few slapstick moments (WHY, oh WHY, in this age of worldwide hunger and starvation, do film makers still include scenes where food is wasted, for instance? Tipping an entire place of spaghetti on one’s head is really NOT funny!) and some entirely unsuitable and implausible behaviour on Esther’s part (e.g. going to a nightclub, and having a fumble with a barely-known boy in a dark and dingy alley in order to ‘fit in’).