reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Geoff Bennett
Stars: Saskia Burmeister, Delta Goodrem, Craig McLachlan, Jean Kitson, Tracey Mann.
At the centre of this story of teenage angst and growing pains is the rivalry between teacher’s pet Erica Yuken (relative newcomer Saskia Burmeister) and Alison Ashley (Delta Goodrem), the new girl in school who seems set to usurp Erica’s place in the pecking order. Erica is something of a loner and a misfit, who grows more suspicious of the seemingly perfect Alison, and is intent on undermining her at every turn. Events come to a head during the school camp at the aptly named Camp Desolation, where Erica expects to be the star of the traditional final night performance.
The passage of rites for troubled teenage girls has been explored previously in films like the superb Looking For Alibrandi, Only The Brave, and the recent American independent film Thirteen, which brought a grungy edge to some familiar themes. Hating Alison Ashley, based on the popular novel by Robin Klein, explores similar themes from a more comic perspective. Hating Alison Ashley is teen friendly fare that will mainly appeal to audiences who love the sort of lightweight fluff regularly churned out by Hollywood – usually starring Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan (eg: Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen, etc) – where the misfit heroine learns to come to terms with who she is and who her friends are in the often cruel social cliques of high school.
Director Geoff Bennett manages to maintain a good balance between comic moments and the more emotional moments and the film contains a few pleasant surprises. However, all of the young cast seem far too old to be convincing as fourteen year olds. Despite her previous experience in front of the camera in Neighbours, Goodrem seems uncomfortable here and delivers a one-dimensional performance. Craig McLachlan hams it up wonderfully as the clumsy and vain PE teacher, while Jean Kitson is superb as the brassy teacher Miss Belmont, whose role has been beefed up from the original novel. But it is Burmeister, in her first leading role, who delivers a solid and mature performance that carries the film over its bumpy patches.
While it has some moments that work a treat, Hating Alison Ashley ultimately fails to completely satisfy. Given that the book is a staple of school curriculums, one would have expected more effort to have gone into producing a polished and insightful film of the same standard as Looking For Alibrandi.