A lazy weekend with nothing much on gave me the chance to finally see Looking For Alibrandi.
Josie Alibrandi [Pia Miranda] has a lot on her plate. Coming from a large close-knit Italian family is difficult enough, where she not only has to battle with the stigma of coming from a single parent household, but one where her father is a secret known only to herself and her mother.
In her final year at a posh Sydney private school that is overflowing with more than its fair share of cashed-up Daddy’s little princesses, Josie, in contrast, attends on a scholarship. As Vice Captain, her temper and individuality cost her the role of School Captain — a position that went to one of the princesses, a noxious junior model named Carly Bishop [Leanna Walsman].
Christina Alibrandi [Greta Scacchi] is a strong and determined woman. When she announced her pregnancy at seventeen, her father threw her out of the house and forbade her mother to see her or her daughter Josie — an edict that remained in place until his death. She defied everyone and raised her daughter alone.
Katia Alibrandi [Elena Cotta] is the family matriarch. A fierce and single-minded woman [anybody spotting the pattern here?] she believes that the Alibrandi women are cursed and never misses a chance to remind them. She carries a deep sadness and also a dark secret.
Michael Andretti [Anthony LaPaglia] is a successful and respected barrister who has moved back to Sydney for the first time since he left high school. He is more than surprised to discover he has a daughter, never dreaming that Christina would defy her father and have the child. And yet he is proud that his daughter is planning to follow in his footsteps and study law at university.
John Barton [Matthew Newton] is the Captain of a neighbouring private boy’s school. He is a young man who appears to have it all with his future life mapped out in politics by his father, but that pressure on top of his HSC is a lot for anyone to handle. Jacob Coote [Kick Gurry] is the irreverent Captain of the local public school, he’s as far from what he perceives Josie’s world to be — and yet closer than he imagines.
Josie world at first appears to be dominated by her traditional grandmother, Katia, her every move watched and monitored by her grandmother’s personal Mafia of cronies. But instead of being the downtrodden child she follows in the Alibrandi tradition of strong-minded women and makes her own way in the world, even though everything she knows and understands is constantly changing.
Possessed of a quick wit — like her mother — that serves Josie well as a debater, her wicked temper [like her father] gets her in trouble when she breaks Carly Bishop’s nose. The fight serving to bring Josie and her father, Michael Andretti, together in something other than a slanging match. Unfortunately the reunion of Josie and Michael is a little too easy, but that appears to be the only slip in the story.
The casting is wonderfully fitting for the characters and the direction by Kate Woods serves to bring out their best. All of the actors are perfectly cast. Notable performances come from Matthew Newton — son of Australia television icon Bert Newton — as the epitome of all Josie aspires to be and Elena Cotta as the traditionally valued Italian, both characters carry secrets which more often than not shown without the need for dialogue. Pia Miranda deservedly won an AFI Award for her lead role as the determined Josie Alibrandi, as did Greta Scacchi for her role as Josie’s mother.
The locations around inner city and suburban Sydney are well chosen and create a perfect backdrop for the story, fortunately without the addition of twee tourist icons which would have made the film distracting to a foreign audience. The music is well chosen and brings a vital sense of mood to the film.
Looking for Alibrandi is a great coming of age drama which may well be overlooked as a film aimed solely at teen girls due to the subject matter, which would be a shame as it’s a gem of a film that will be remember fondly.
Published Epinions — 27.10.2002
Published WrittenByMe — 19.11.2001
Book available from Amazon and Amazon UK
DVD available from and DevotedDVD