‘Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)’ light, sweet, but packs a punch
“Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s dead aunt)”
Unclassified. On VOD
Rating: B +
If you’ve taken Noel Coward’s eternal scene “Blithe Spirit,” which was recently adapted for screen starring Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher and Leslie Mann, and merged it with the switch-over story. adulthood of a gay Australian high school student, you I have the festival favorite “Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt).” It’s a cute premise and if the movie doesn’t offer much beyond kindness (and sincerity and gentleness), that’s okay because the story has a big heart. Ellie (sympathetic Sophie Hawkshaw) is the 17-year-old daughter of nervous single mother Erica (Marta Dusseldorp), a lawyer whose gay sister Tara died in a car crash before Ellie was born. Erica’s best friend is Tara’s ex Patty (Rachel House), an Uber driver, who is Ellie’s “other” mother. Ellie tries to find the courage to invite her classmate Abbie (Zoe Terakes) to “formal” school aka prom. But she is going through a difficult time and the stress of it all weighs on her relationship with her mother, who is her best friend. Things go from bad to worse when the spirit of her late aunt Tara (Julia Billington) appears and begins giving advice. Ellie is fed up with an online personality she follows, a spiritual guru named Faith Underwood (Chiara Gizzi).
Tara says that she is Ellie’s “fairy godmother” (wink, wink, nudge) and that she is there to help Ellie get out of school. The object of Ellie’s attention, Abbie, is a young woman who loves horses. Ellie pretends to be in detention to approach Abbie, who is there for using the “C word” in class. Abbie asks Ellie why she, a “school captain”, is in detention, and Ellie lies saying “trash”. She doesn’t know that Abbie finds the trash obnoxious. Ellie tries to teach her aunt’s ghost things like texting and podcasting. Her deceased aunt tries to help her follow her heart. When Abbie, who was unmasked by a girlfriend she had a crush on, inadvertently gives a presentation about Ellie’s late aunt, who was a pioneering gay rights activist, life gets more complicated for Ellie.
Written and directed by Monica Zanetti and dedicated to her “guncles” aka gay uncles, “Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)” is not a heavyweight. It’s a light comedy. But there is real pain to this story, and the cast carry it all in the end zone with aplomb. With her buttons, badges, denim jacket and aviator glasses, Aunt Tara is so 80s. You’ll have to endure the torture of watching Australian high school kids dance. But you’ll also see real footage of an actual Australian gay rights protest from 1989. “Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)” isn’t Noel Coward. But Hawkshaw’s performance will strike a chord with many young people.
(“Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)” contains quirky language and mature themes)