Hating Alison Ashley

Cast and Crew:

Director     Geoff Bennett

Writing Credits       Chris Anastassides
                                   Robin Klein (original novel)
                                    Christine Madafferi (adaptation)

Cinematographer       Steve Newman

Producer                        John Brousek
                                       Gary Hamilton (executive producer)
                                        Elizabeth Howatt-Jackman
                                        Sue Wild (line producer)

Music by                         Cezary Skubiszewski

Film Editing                    Suresh Ayyar

Casting                           Anna Bakewell

Production Design          Ralph Moser

Costume Design              Paul Warren

Make up Department        Helen Magelaki

Production Management    Anna Phelps
Production company          HAA Films Pty. Ltd.
Lead Actors:

Erica Yurken                   Saskia Burmeister
Mum                                Tracey  Mann
Older Sister Valjoy          Rachel Carpani
Younger sister Jedda      Abigail Gudgeon
Lennie                              Richard Carter
Alison Ashley                   Delta Goodrem
Miss Belmont                   Jean Kittson
Barry Hollis                       Alex Capelli
Jeff Kennard                   Craig Lauchlan

Released on March 17th, 2005

Box Office Figures:          over $2 million.    Australian Film Commission http://www.afc.gov.au/downloads/pubs/boxoffice%20backgrounder.pdf

 

Bibliography of Film Reviews:

Louise Keller. Urban CineFile. Online. May 25, 2006
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=10071&s=Reviews

Australian Film Commision.
http://www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes05/feature_138.aspx

Catherine Naghten. Media Search. Copyright © 2006 Mediasearch Pty Ltd.
http://www.mediasearch.com.au/film/filmreviews/hatingalisonashley-review

Luke Buckmaster. Infilm Australia.  http://www.infilm.com.au/reviews/alisonashley.htm

Robert Ford . “Teenage Rivalry” 2006 ReelTalk Movie Reviews. http://www.reeltalkreviews.com/browse/viewitem.asp?type=review&id=1205

 

The Sydney Morning Herald. Philippa Hawker. October 4, 2005  http://www.smh.com.au/news/dvd-reviews/hating-alison-ashley/2005/10/04/1128391223635.html
 
Clint Morris. Moviehole . Copyright 1998-2004
http://www.moviehole.net/reviews/1472.html

Peter Malone. Signis Mag.
http://www.wmaker.net/signis_en/index.php?action=article&id_article=260926

 

Reviews and Online public commentary:

At The Movies. Reviewed by  Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton.
http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1316314.htm

Delta Goodrem’s Official Web site. “Hating Alison Ashley Opens Today!”
http://www.deltagoodrem.com/newsEvents/archive.do?newsId=20030829001598

 

Plot:

Erica Yurken is a teenager struggling with how she fits into her family. She wonders why nobody can see her star quality and she feels under appreciated, that is until a new teacher shows up, Miss Belmont, who is different and might actually recognize Erica for the true star that she really is. Then the rich, blond and very talented Alison Ashley shows up as a transfer student and clouds up Erica’s vision of stardom. Erica must outshine Alison or accept that she isn’t the star she thought she was. This is a coming of age film that deals with relationships and understanding of one another.

Synopsis:
Hating Alison Ashley is definitely a coming of age film with a grade 9 girl, Erica Yurken(Saskia Burmeister) nicknamed “Yuk” by those who love and loath her. She has a typical teenage mind frame which tells you that your family is crazy and you should get out as soon as possible. While the film introduces us to her family we can see why Erica might want to pretend she doesn’t know them. Her Mum(Tracey Mann) is the only seemingly normal character but then again she is also on the way to being engaged to a gap toothed truck driver, Lennie(Richard Carter) who leaves a lot to be desired in physical appearance but makes up with it in the size of his heart and lack of judgment on any one. Her older sister, Valjoy(Rachel Carpani), is a whirlwind character and is excellent at treating her sisters as if they don’t exist unless one of them accidentally gets in her way in which case she will steam roll them. Her younger sister, Jedda(Abigail Gudgeon) has gone a whole year acting as a horse, in which she crawls around on her hands and knees and tries to eat grass.
Erica feels as though she is stuck in a family that doesn’t appreciate her talent and excellence. She often finds solace in the school sick bay and deals with her unhappiness in life by pretending she is someone else.  Her school life is lacking severely as well until a new teacher arrives. Miss Belmont (Jean Kittson) is straight laced uptight woman who has disciplining teenagers down to a science and can control even the rowdiest of classes.  Erica sees Miss Belmont as a great mentor and someone who will recognize her for the great talent that she is. This is until Alison Ashley (Delta Goodrem) enters the picture. As a transfer student, the tall, skinny, blond, siren-like Alison is switched into Erica’s class. Erica being the attention hog that she is tries to make Alison her best friend but goes a little too far and ends up scaring Alison into staying away from her. To this Erica decides that she actually hates Alison Ashley and goes on a rampage to outshine her at every opportunity that presents itself.
Erica’s class goes on a week long camping trip where they will also be performing a play at the end of the week for all of their family and loved ones. Seeing this as her big chance, Erica not only writes the play but she decides that she will be the lead character. Its not until she starts her first line in the first day of rehearsal that she leans that she has a paralyzing case of stage fright and cannot perform, thinking quickly she decides that as the director she cannot rehearse and direct at the same time so she has Alison act as her stand in until the big night when she plans to steal the show. During the week, Erica’s perfect image of Alison is broken when she finds out that unlike her own loving family, Alison’s family is too busy for her and will not be attending the play.  Erica then goes from hating Alison, to feeling bad for her and trying to help her.
Erica’s stage fright is found out and after a humiliating rehearsal and she tries to run away only to be found by Miss Belmont and taken back to camp. As the film comes to an end everything seems to fall into place, although Erica is banned from her own play because of her attempt at running away, the play goes off without a hitch, with Alison as the leading character. Just as the play concludes, Erica sneaks into the auditorium and is about to be reprimanded by Miss Belmont while the cast of her play are taking their bows, when Alison calls for applause for the director and writer which happens to he Alison. Both Alison and Erica are recognized for their talents, the tension with Miss Belmont is sidestepped, and everyone leaves happy and fulfilled.

 

Critical Uptake:

            Because this film was more of a teenage hit, little critical attention was paid to it. The reviews I found were mostly plot summaries and then a brief comment on weather or not they liked the film.  The general message was that the film would be well received by the younger generations of girls in Australia and possibly those who had enjoyed the original novel when it came out 20 years ago.
            The film got most of its attention because an Australian music icon, Delta Goodrem, was making her silver screen debut. She was predicted to make the transition smoothly from music to the big screen. Before the movie came out everyone was hopeful for her, subsequently however, the reviews were mixed. Robert Ford of ReelTalk said this about her debut,

“The ethereally beautiful Miss Goodrem may look like an A-list movie goddess, but does she have the acting chops to match? Hating Alison Ashley is not the film to answer that question. It’s just not the kind of material that really stretches an actor’s abilities.”

This seemed to be the general opinion of the critical reviewers out there and there were too many reviews to count that said close to the same thing. In one of the better reviews I read about this movie Luke Buckmaster had this to say about the actress.

“Goodrem looks out of place inside the context of the story and in the film itself and…. she is the victim of some especially poor narrative devices felt predominantly during the film's closure.”

So weather the singer can make it on the big screen is yet to be seen, no pun intended, as this film seemed to not be able to give her the acting depth that critics needed to see from her to properly judge her true acting abilities.

Saskia Burmeister was the lead character of this film, unlike what the name would have you believe, and she fared rather well in her reviews, a review on the website MediaSearch had this to say about her performance,

“Burmeister (Ned Kelly, Wicked Science), on the other hand, is outstanding, communicating a moody hypochondriac in a way that is easy to identify with and immensely likeable”

Luke Buckmaster had this to say,

“[Burmeister is] effective and even slightly endearing as the film's pedantic anchor”

One of the main reasons that Burmeister came off better than Goodrem is not only because of the performance but, even though she was the mail character of the film she was not the one everyone was watching. The point is to say that Burmeister had good reviews, when the reviewers mentioned her performance at all.
Other general opinions of this film stayed with the fact that it’s for a younger crowd and therefore didn’t need to be criticized as harshly as it could have been. I did, however, manage to find some critics who weren’t too busy take a critical eye to the film. Luke Buckmaster of Infilm Australia had this to say about the cinematography and directing of the film;

“Bennett spends considerable time and effort establishing a low-class suburban world littered with quirks, introducing his setting nimbly and with good humour so that the film's environment appears to be effortlessly conveyed.  It's a shame then that the last act of the film abandons its principal setting entirely, never to return, spending way too much time at school camp (camp Desolation, incidentally) where petty grievances, childish bickering and a tame and forced romantic sub-plot make poor substitutes for the wacky banality of the high school and family backdrops.”

Personally I found this movie to be amusing but under the standards of any normal person over the age of 18. The teeny bopper age group will enjoy this movie and I’m sure they can relate to the characters and their disproval of their families and social lives.  As one amateur reviewer commented on IMDb;

“This movie is aimed at 12 to 14 year old's, i think thats why i enjoyed it so much as I'm 13, i could kind of get what Erica was on about, her frustration and anger about how no one appreciates her "art".”

I think that pretty much sums it up.

 

About the Producers and Directors

 

“Geoff Bennett is an Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) graduate. He has made two feature films—Boys in the Island, from Christopher Koch's novel, and Turning April, an Australian/Canadian co-production. His projects have been awarded both internationally and in Australia. He has made a number of documentaries and directed episodes of the US sciencefiction drama Farscape as well as many hours of Australian TV. Geoff is currently developing two feature film projects.” http://www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes05/feature_138.aspx


 

“John Brousek has 20 years' experience covering all aspects of film production and development. An AFTRS graduate, he has a background in writing, directing and production accounting. Since establishing his own production company in 1998, John has produced a number of features including the commercially
successful comedy The Wog Boy, one of Australia's highest grossing films. He will have two scripts ready for production during 2005.”
http://www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes05/feature_138.aspx

“Elizabeth Howatt-Jackman has worked as business affairs manager at Crawfords, deputy director at Film Victoria and investment manager at Cinemedia. In 1999 she line-produced The Incurable Romantic, a privately financed romantic comedy. After optioning the film rights to the best-selling book Hating Alison Ashley in 1995, Elizabeth spent nine years developing the project. It was financed in 2003, utilising a Product Ruling from the Australian Tax Office for private 10BA investors to augment government and film industry investors.” http://www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes05/feature_138.aspx

 

Current uptake on the Australian market:

Hating Alison Ashley is a classic example of an Australian Film. It’s my understanding that within Australian cinema one of the key things to look for is taking chances and going out on a limb. This is the sort of thing that happens in Hating Alison Ashley. I’m not entirely sure there is one “normal” character in the whole film. From the gym teacher who has problems controlling his class and is basically a joke, to the love interest of Erica, Barry Hollis (Alex Capelli) who is a pyromaniac. Even the characters who are supposed to be normal are just a little off color, like the strict school teacher Miss Belmont, who is more like a lieutenant in the army than a grade 9 teacher.  All of the colorful characters add that certain weirdness that I’ve seen in many Australian films.
Hating Alison Ashley is a film in which two girls find themselves and map out their places in the world. It’s a coming of age film with many aspects of comedy done Australia-style with awkward weirdness that ingeniously becomes comedic.  The genres Hating Alison Ashley could easily fit into would be comedy, coming of age and a woman’s film.
I think because this film was reported to be one of the top ten highest grossing films in Australia for the year 2005, you can be sure that there is definitely a profit to be made from the teenage group with movies such as this one.  I think Hating Alison Ashley can really attest to where the target market groups in Australia come from.  The movie may have done better than usual also because it was the only movie to be released on the weekend of March 17th, 2005 and also it was a holiday weekend which means that more people would have been likely to go see movies within that particular weekend.   

Prepared by Laura Wolfe, 2006