A friend lent me a copy of “hey hey it’s esther blueberger” which I must have missed when it came out last year. It’s about a 13 yr old scrappy, imaginative, curious jewish girl living in adelaide (I think it’s adelaide…), australia, who doesn’t fit into her snooty private school and doesn’t have any friends to invite to her batmitzvah until she meets the cool, public-school-going sunni (played by the actress from whale rider).
It was just a really sweet and surprising film. And I identified so much with esther- the geeky, misfit with the funny-sounding surname with braces on her teeth. It made me wish that film had been around when I was growing up! Besides esther and her twin brother having their bat/r mitzvahs, there isn’t really that much ‘jewish’ content to the film. Judaism’s used as more of a plot device, really. But it did get me thinking about the way that I relate to films and characters as a jewish woman, and particularly as a scrappy geeky jewish girl when I was growing up.
I remember watching the classic ‘coming-of-age’ film ‘stand by me’ in class at about that age, and studying it, and while i loved that film too, when I think about it, there wasn’t anything in it relevant to the things i was going through at that age that related to my own ‘coming-of-age’, as a somewhat sheltered jewish girl growing up in the city. I feel a little as though we were made to think that “coming-of-age” meant facing up to keifer sutherland bully types, and wading through leech infested rivers, and dodging trains… But, Esther Blueberger is about the pain of being a loner, the difficulties and awkwardness of making friends, as well as the joys of finding real friends, and of developing your own sense of who you are in an environment where you also are desperately trying to “fit in”.
I think its also interesting to think about the film in relation to tobybee’s earlier post (from the jwa blog) on ‘dirty dancing’. It made me remember, or perhaps acknowledge, that one of the reasons i loved that film was because i identified with ‘baby’ with her big nose and frizzy hair. That film, in a way, was a bit of a “coming-of-age” too, i think.
So I suppose it just made me really happy that this positive, quirky, intelligent film about a jewish australian young girl’s coming of age story is out there. Has anyone else seen it? Would love to hear what you thought of it!