Hating Alison Ashley

Year: 2005
Director: Geoff Bennet
Writer: Robin Klein
Cast: Saskia Burmeister, Delta Goodrem, Jean Kittson, Tracey Mann, Richard Carter, Craig MacLachlan
Being accepted when you're in your teens (when you're sure your family and schoolmates are all medical experiments gone wrong) is a recognisable theme. The last time it was tackled from a uniquely Australian viewpoint was in 2000's Looking for Alibrandi, a more mature film than Alison Ashley.

That's partly because in the original novel, the characters of Erica and Alison are 11 years old - it's more fertile ground for the childish, outright jealousy of Alison Ashley than the moral conundrums about the larger world of economic and cultural backgrounds from Alibrandi.

But Hating Alison Ashley isn't aimed at twentysomethings looking for a taut psychological drama, it's more likely to appeal to the armies of tween girls whose bedroom walls are covered in posters of Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff and - of course - Delta Goodrem.

Goodrem is the titular object of hatred when she arrives at a hellhole public school where Erica (Burmeister) navigates life in the school pecking order and her dysfunctional family. An aspiring actress and hypochondriac, Erica is enamoured by the arrival of the beautiful and seemingly perfect Alison, immediately wanting nothing more than to be her.

Her desire turns to jealousy pretty fast and she spends the rest of the movie treating most of the people around her very nastily without cause - it's unclear whether the script was meant to paint Erica as such a nasty piece of work because for most of the movie you have a hard time dredging up any sympathy for her.

Subplots and characters that surround Erica and Ashley are indistinct and the script doesn't do much to sell them. Erica's family, the teachers at school, the love triangle between the two leads and school punk Barrie all flesh out the running time but don't hang comfortably from the story.

Interesting to see another former TV comedy fixture in a supporting role (Jean Kittson as the girl's brutish teacher, following in the footsteps of Marg Downey who appeared in the background of 2004's Under the Radar). And Craig McLachlan, only ever cropping up in minor roles in woeful comedies nowadays, plays comic relief in a character where the 'comic' lasts about a minute and then just turns stupid.

As the darling of the Australian media, Goodrem is perfect when her beautiful face is smiling from a magazine cover, but called on to act, she flouders badly, failing to offer any emotional resonance.

As Erica, Burmeister is left to carry almost the entire film on her shoulders. She occasionally breaks into high-school-drama flourishes of overacting, but she's definitely eager, and her charisma in giving Erica life is the high point in just another lame Australian comedy let out of the gate far too early.

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