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HATING ALISON ASHLEY

SYNOPSIS:
Erica 'Yuk' Yurken (Saskia Burmeister) is a melodramatic 14 year old living in lower class Barringa East, who believes she is destined for stardom. Her chaotic family - mum (Tracey Mann), her long term boyfriend Lennie (Richard Carter), and her three siblings - is less focused on her future. But in Miss Belmont's (Jean Kittson) class at school, Yuk feels she is the bright spark - until the arrival of miss perfect, Alison Ashley (Delta Goodrem). Alison is beautiful and rich and she's smart. After a failed attempt to befriend the new girl and Alison's unintentional stealing of Yuk's limelight, Yuk decides they must be rivals and embarks on a campaign against Alison. When the two girls are thrown together on the school's annual camp they begin to see each other in a different light.

Review by Louise Keller:
Alison Ashley epitomises perfection - she is the girl at school we all loved to hate because she appears to have everything - beauty, brains and talent. And when casting the adaptation of Robin Klein's novel Hating Alison Ashley, the filmmakers had no difficulty to find someone with all those qualities - Delta Goodrem. Goodrem alone is sure to draw an audience to this good-natured coming of age story about a young girl grappling with her life, her dysfunctional family and the new girl in town, who is stealing the attention she believes should rightfully be hers. It's no surprise that Goodrem, in her feature film debut, plays the part of the girl everyone wishes to be, and she does so, to perfection.

Targeted at those who enjoyed Looking for Alibrandi, Hating Alison Ashley is a sweet film with its heart firmly in the right place. The story explores friendship, rivalries, and how easy it is to wish you belonged to another family that was less embarrassing, more upmarket and, well, just like the family of your fantasies. With its excellent score by award-winning Australian composer Cezary Skubiszewski, it's an enjoyable film with an appealing sense of chaos and observations about human behaviour that rings true. My biggest disappointment is that I didn't fall in love with the film's central character. Director Geoff Bennett keeps us at arm's length from Saskia Burmeister's Erica Yurken, and it's this lack of a crucial connection (like the one we had with Pia Miranda's Josie Alibrandi) that limits the emotional investment we make in Yuk/Erk's ugly duckling.

Richard Carter gives a superb performance as Lenny, the truckie with a big heart and no pretensions, and I loved Jean Kittson's no-nonsense teacher with a scary hairdo, who reminded me of a teacher I once had. Craig McLachlan brings slapstick to the mix with his PE teacher who lets everyone walk all over him, and is a hoot. The best scenes are those involving Erica's family, who are so different from each other, yet care as only family can.

Hating Alison Ashley is a snapshot into that awkward time when we feel the whole world is against us, and we are desperately searching for our individual connection. It's an appealing encounter and one to which especially teenage girls will relate.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Told in the first person through Erica Yurken's eyes and words, the adaptation relies on its voice over to take us inside Erica's thoughts; this is how the novel works (I haven't read it). This allows the film to develop two levels of consciousness, one in which we are privy to the real emotional landscape, the other to see our heroine as the world sees her. It's effective for dramatic purposes and useful as a tool to clearly set up motives and psychological trip points.

A vibrant and energetic cast helps populate Erica's world, notably Jean Kittson as the stern but not saintly Miss Belmont. Delta Goodrem is resolutely unbitchy and decent and sweet as Alison Ashley (and rather muted), while Saskia Burmeister plays the plane Jane who has talent, but she is chasing fame. All the time fearing Alison's perfect persona overshadowing her, she fails to recognise that Alison's life is not so perfect at all.

At home, it's Erica's loving mum (Tracey Mann) and caring step-father-to-be, Lennie (Richard Carter effective as a gap-toothed truck driver with a heart of gold), who make Erica's life really special, while Alison's well to do parents we never meet, because they are never around.

As Erica's journey towards a better understanding of herself and the world around her stumbles patchily forward, we share her adventures amongst her peers; the boys will be boys and the girls dress to delight ... themselves.

The story is clear, as is the moral, and while it does all the right things, the film plays as a predictable coming of teenage, including the dream sequences. While the target audience may enjoy the film as it is, I fancy a bit more edginess and cinematic bravura. It sits a tad too close to the accepted Hollywood formula, and loses the raw reality and credibility of character that made Looking for Alibrandi a standout.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

HATING ALISON ASHLEY (PG)
(Aust)

CAST: Delta Goodrem, Saskia Burmeister, Rachael Karpani, Tracey Mann, Jean Kittson, Katie Fitchett and Craig McLachlan.

PRODUCER: John Brousek, Elizabeth Howatt-Jackman

DIRECTOR: Geoff Bennett

SCRIPT: Christine Madafferi (novel by Robin Klein)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steve Newman

MUSIC: Cezary Skubiszewski

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ralph Moser

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 17, 2005

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

VIDEO RELEASE: September 7, 2005







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