Hey, Hey, It’s Esther Blueburger
by Laura Tucker
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I’ve told my 13-year-old daughter and her friend that you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to junior high school again. I just don’t think there is any amount of money that would equal reliving that experience. It was this knowledge that drew me to the film Hey, Hey, It’s Esther Blueburger. Described as “life’s unending quest to fit in,” I knew it was a must-see for me and my daughter, as well as my 17-year-old son.
It’s clear Esther (Danielle Catanzariti) doesn’t fit in at her private all girls school. While the other girls are all eating lunch together in their individual cliques, she sits inside eating alone, observing them from the inside out. It’s wonderfully filmed and choreographed, as all the girls collectively sit, eat, and drink together, looking from above, almost like synchronized swimming. The others make fun of her and call her Cheeseburger. A heavyset girl that also doesn’t fit in walks through the crowd of spraying water bottles with an umbrella instead of standing up for herself to say it isn’t right.
Esther doesn’t seem to fit in much better at home. She and her brother (Christian Byers) are preparing for their bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah, and she can’t seem to bear to admit the truth to her mom, that she is so unpopular at school that she hasn’t bothered to actually invite any of them to her big Jewish coming of age party. Yet her mom (Essie Davis) doesn’t seem to pay enough attention to her to even notice the girl has absolutely no friends.
Esther’s life begins to change around once she does begin to make some friends. Her first friend is one of the hatched ducks from the school. She hides him in her pocket and decides to call him “Normal,” seemingly happy to just have something about herself be normal. Her second friend is Sunni (Keisha Castle-Hughes) a public school girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is intrigued by Esther. She, her friends, and her exotic dancer mom (the always brilliant Toni Collette) begin to show Esther a whole different side of life, one that entails not always doing what you’re told, yet being normal by doing inordinary things.
As an adult, the joy in watching Esther Blueburger is in watching her grow as a young woman and as a person, and go through that maturity process that everyone painfully goes through. She becomes our child to nurture into the beautiful swan we known she can be. For teens and tweens it’s a joy to watch Esther go through these growing pains just to know no one has to be alone going through it. This was the one time I didn’t mind going back to junior high.
Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.
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