Looking for Alibrandi (2000)
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Secondly, for the ladies, if you are looking for a good "chick-flick" you can hardly go wrong. And for the lads, Pia epitamises the "girl next door" look.
Lastly, if you haven't experienced a good Aussie movie and don't fancy a youthful Mel Gibson, why not give this movie a go. I highly recommend it.
In short: it's a kind movie that's been well filmed and with much more quality than the most of the sickly sweet Hollywood products such as "Never been kissed" and stuff.
*My rate: 6/10
We so rarely get to see glimpses of Australia's ethnic immigrant communities. With shades of "Household Saints" and "Moonstruck" here's a coming-of-age movie set in Sydney's Little Italy.
The pluses and minuses of being a high school senior in a close-knit family and community are warmly and hilariously portrayed visually. (How do they keep their young 'uns at school and work when the beach laps practically onto the city streets?)
Co-star Anthony LaPaglia (as a very non-stereotypical Italian father), who did a "Q & A" after the movie, felt the Italian community portrayal accurately reflected his experiences growing up in Adelaide.
Faithfully based on a popular "Young Adult" novel (with a few plot changes), its lack of clichés about family and dating was refreshing -- the just out of reach Golden Boy is tormented by his own demons; the seductive Bad Boy is no lout, but captain of the opposing school's debate team with his own vulnerability issues.
The "curse" on the women in the family is quite touching and realistic, without simple Hollywood solutions.
While the Ozzies in the audience caught more of the jokes faster as the slang and native references kept the Americans dependent on context, do watch out to see this delightful movie where ever you can.
(originally written 10/7/2001)
Women who haven't had a father while growing up are supposed to find it more difficult to handle adult males and Josie has to learn to deal with a father and boyfriends at the same time. She also has to handle to snobbery at school, not to mention the burden of the dreaded HSC exam in her final year. She is aiming high (law at a prestigious university) so that she can escape from little Italy and the annual tomato sauce bottling. She learns, of course, that you cannot escape from what made you, you can only make it work for you. As in real life, nothing quite works out according to plan, but at the end she's a year older and wiser.
It's Pia Miranda's film. Her Josie is assertive, vulnerable and warm. A raft of good supporting actors back her up. Greta Scacchi, often cast as a sex bomb, is a blowsy but loving Mum. Anthony La Paglia is a bit of a stock character as the new-found father but has a couple of good scenes. Elena Cotta as Nono and Matthew Newton and Kick Gurry as the silvertail and rough trade boyfriends also do good work. Kerry Walker, so often cast as a female monster, puts in a restrained performance as a firm but sympathetic schoolteacher. I also liked Josie's two girlfriends Anna and Sara, the 'wog chicks' in the old Merc, and their no-holds barred approach to enjoying life despite the HSC and demanding parents. Sydney city vistas are also used to good effect the bridges, the harbour, Bondi Beach, and there was even a school debate in the foyer of the Opera Theatre. It was nice to get away from the grunge Sydney seen in 'Two Hands' etc.
I noticed that though I could hardly be described as being in the target audience for this film I was smiling most of the way through and emerged from the cinema with a reasonably cheerful feeling. It's not a particularly dramatic story but it's easy to warm to the characters. A film adaption that works, it seems.
The fact that the movie also deals with racism, and all those other "isms" (ageism, sexism and so on) raised it up a notch for me. It was THE best Aussie movie I saw that year and probably even just the best movie.
I don't know if everyone would enjoy it, but I think most people would get something out of it.
The story, once a novel, is well written and warming, and the father-daughter relationship is quite touching, yet I felt that some of the strongest emotions were only lightly dismissed.
The film is visually quite colourful, and has a slight Australian teen soap feel to it.
I recommend that you see this film, if only once, for the story at least.
We were given the book and, after a dozen or so slow hours, the book was finished. And I thought I was free. And THEN my teacher pulls the TV into the classroom. HOwever long it was later, the TV was switched off, and I immediately started ranting about how bad it was. I wasn't the only one.
First off, the acting wasn't bad, it was reasonable. The music was good too (except for one instance which I will rant about later) and the cinematography was decent too.
BUT these things don't really matter if you don't have characters you care about or a decent plot!!!
The book at least attempts to make you care about the characters, it shows little scenes between some of them to show that they are actually human. The movie, however, just dumps you right in the middle of it and expects you to love all the characters instantly, which is especially hard for the main character who I think is a horrible person. What about the character John Barton? He spends the entire time he's in the film smiling, joking and running around, flirting with Josie, he's depressed for thirty seconds, there's a 'tense' moment and then he kills himself. And are we supposed to care? Yes. Do we? NO!!! Because the movie didn't build up his character, didn't make him realistic OR likable. But this actually brings me to the only compliment I can really give this movie. The funeral scene was well done. Well shot, it was reasonably moving. And the song choice was brilliant. U2's 'With Or Without You' is an amazing song and was perfect for that scene. Sadly, they had it sung by tone deaf cats with laryngitis. The singer (whoever it was, I don't care about him enough to look up his name) was HORRENDOUS!!!! Horrible!!!! I just couldn't believe they would let someone ruin one of the best songs ever like that! I hope they didn't pay him, because I would definitely be asking HIM to give ME money. And yes, I know I've spent a paragraph complaining about a song in the movie, but I had to get it out there.
Another thing that bothered me was the ending. The book had a rather realistic ending, not everything was sunshine and smiles. The movie, however, made it ENTIRELY sunshine and smiles, everyone was happy, everything was perfect. It kinda ruined the entire thing, although it was ruined anyway just by making it a movie.
All in all, this movie was worth the one star I gave it purely because of the funeral scene. I couldn't stand any more of it. The only thing that could get me through it was the fact that I want to do well in English and this counted towards the grade.
The music used in the film gave the film a more textured flavour, especially during the scene with the...uh (how can I say it without spoiling people)...the uh, procession. The song ("With or Without You" by U2) just expressed everything that wasn't said.
The movie was great, and the tension between Josie and Nonna was done with a humorous sort of...uncomfortability. You just don't get that from words printed on paper.
Read the book, watch the movie. If you like slightly dramatic, slightly romantic, slightly comedic movies, then this is the movie for you. Besides, the storyline is great.
Maybe I just wasn't prepared to be charitable. The opening volley of first-person narration put me in a sour mood from which I never really emerged - partly because there was a second volley after the first, and a third, and a fourth - in short, WHENEVER director Kate Woods could think of nothing better to do, which was often, Pia Miranda's voice over cut across the soundtrack like a close-miked violin. It's a clumsy device. Instead of bringing us closer to Josie it actually distances us. When will directors and screenwriters get the idea? First-person narration cannot go far wrong as a literary device, and it can raise a book to heights the author could not otherwise have reached - "Great Expectations" is a good example of the magic spell a first-person narrator can cast. But it's usually a DISASTROUS device in a film. It's disastrous here. -And, not content with over-using the first-person voice over, Woods also over-uses the SECOND clumsiest cliché of film: the pop song interlude. Gargh.
There are fleeting moments - a moment of silent communication between Josie and her father in the headmaster's office, a wounding remark made by Josie's boyfriend - in which the film springs to life, promising to cast off its first-person cocoon and take flight. At such moments I WANTED the film to become good. I really did. My hopes were always dashed. (Usually within seconds, I might add.)
The trouble with "Looking for Alibrandi" is that one can smell the very pages of the book on which it was based. I haven't read the book, but I know the type. It's one of those ghastly "young adult" novels. I think I could have felt the prose even without hearing it: glib, scientifically crafted to meet the carefully researched needs of a particular age group, careless of the concerns of those who lie outside that age group by so much as a month. Books of this kind have not so much a story as a synthetic tom-tom beat of Relevant Issues. Their absence of aesthetic merit is so complete it must be deliberate. And they are oh, so insular. In the entire history of mankind, has there ever been, or will there ever be, a "young adult" novel that's also a good book? Hah. -Oh, there may be good books that are by and large READ by teenagers, like "The Lord of the Rings". That book attracted a teenage audience by accident. "Looking for Alibrandi" attracted a teenage audience by design. The difference is crucial.
As I say, I haven't read the book. I could be wrong about it, and I apologise to Melina Marchetta if I am. I don't apologise to the film, though: it's exactly the kind of thing you'd expect to be based on the kind of book I think it's based on.
I normally find myself sharing similar views on movies to Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, however, this movie is pure dulls-ville and I cannot understand how it got the attention it did.
The main character of this movie is an uninteresting girl with no interests, no hobbies, no personality and a boring generic face. All of the characters in this film are like unconscious live stock; breathing, eating, and going through the basic motions of not being dead.
Watching this movie was about as entertaining as staring at a potato. Reading the book required required more effort. It was more like chewing saw dust.
The plot is basically a 17 year old half-Australian half-Italian girl going through her last year of High School where after that she wants to become a solicitor. She goes through things like she meets her father (who is a barrister that didn't even know she existed), falls in love for the first time and other things.
But there is a problem. Most of the characters are just 2 dimensional. You have a character named John Barton that kills himself about halfway through. There is absolutely NO INDICATION to suggest that he's suicidal at any point earlier. Josephine also confesses for wanting to kill herself but again there is absolutely no indication to suggest that. Most of the other characters are just 2 dimensional.
Aside from that the actors are good considering what they're given as material. That's really about it.
Aside from that there isn't much to say about this movie. All this movie needed was MUCH better writing so that the characters could be a little bit more believable.
I would love if someone would remake this movie..with other actors..and to do it exactly like in the book...i think people would enjoy it more!
Seventeen-year-old Josephine Alibrandi is in her last year at St. Martha's, a wealthy Catholic secondary school for girls whose fathers treat them like princesses. Josephine feels that she doesn't fit in anywhere for the following reasons. She is an Italian whose grandmother moved out to Sydney when she got married. She is on a scholarship at St Martha's and is surrounded by rich snobbish girls who already have modeling careers. Josie has been called a bastard all her life due to the fact that she has never met her father. But for Josie this year, everything changes for the better, and for worse. This is the year that she will meet her father (Michael Andretti) for the first time in her life, but not in the way she had imagined. The year she finds out about her Nonna Katia's affair with an Australian man called Marcus Sandford. He is Josie's mum's real dad, because Nonna Katia's husband Francesco couldn't have children of his own. It also the year that Josie tries to make the man of her dreams fall in love with her. He goes to St Anthony's and is the son of a Member of Parliament, his name is John Barton, and in Josie's opinion he is the greatest debater who ever lived, popular and good looking. Josie and John are very good friends and hang out a lot. Josie thinks that John is perfect and wants to be part of his world, but when John suicides she realizes that not even he belonged in his world.
It takes Josie a long time to get over John, but soon starts going out with a boy called Jacob Coote. Jacob is school captain of Cook High, and Josie and Jacob are always on and off together throughout the novel. Not only does Josie have all of this happening but she also has her HS (the Higher School Certificate) to worry about, because she wants to study law at University. However, once HS is over, Josephine realizes that everything is going to be fine when she looks back on the year and knows who she is. Josephine is Nonna Katia's Granddaughter, and Michael and Christina's daughter. She is not an Italian and not an Australian, but an individual. It's not a bad effort, even if the first half of Looking for Alibrandi demonstrates a good crackling pace and the second, a rather flattened pace. But that is generalizing - it's quite a bumping ride, as we follow the domestic life of Italian born Josephine, who is undertaking her final level of high school. The guy she wants is just out of her reach, then lately, way out of her reach, and the guy who wants her is keen for the feelings to be reciprocated. The mixture of two possible love interests gives Looking for Alibrandi a slight edge on other squishy little heartthrob dramas, and it gets a nod of appreciation from me for not flat lining its characters into their social stereotypes. Some of the last few monologues lost my interest completely, but that's a minor quibble in the scheme of things. A lot of the film is quite enjoyable. It just doesn't quite handle the complexities of its self-narration in a method that can sustain itself as an engrossing picture. Instead, it's a bumpy ride, which in a way reflects the life of its teenage protagonist.
For those viewers who need a comparative base to decide if they will like a film, "Looking..." shares similarities with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" - both films have female protagonists facing the prospect of growing up in strong ethnic backgrounds and trying to escape it to some extent. Overall I prefer "Looking..." to "MBFGW" since it has more depth and isn't a flat-out sitcom premise, but I believe if you enjoyed one you will at least be entertained by the other.
My two main gripes with "Looking..." are the ending (*spoiler* - it's the old "I want to get away from my family... oh wait, I love them now" ending that is pretty cliched *end spoiler*) and that Josie Alibrandi can be pretty grating at times - she isn't always the sympathetic heroine and can be very off-putting in her behaviour. Still, she's meant to be a teenage girl and I'm fairly sure that 'real' teenage girls can be pretty surly at times too!
Overall, "Looking for Alibrandi" is a coming of age film that features strong performances for the most part. An audience could do much worse than this for a night's entertainment.
Also she is in Yr 12 so she has to do good on her HSC, also while having the pressure of her dad in town and her love interest John Barton(Matthew Newton)committing suicide, now when that seen came on when they played WITH OR WITHOUT YOU when they carried his casket out it was so sad. My emotions were just pouring out.
There aren't much good Australian films out there but this one is really good and I think every 15-20 year old teenager should see it.
After seeing Looking for Alibrandi I decided to give this film an 8 out of 10.
Josie Alibrandi (Miranda) comes third in line of the 'cursed' Alibrandi women, preceded by her mother Christina (Scacchi) and Nona Katia (Cotta). It is her final year at school, and as if this isn't difficult enough to get through, she has to contend with the appearance of her long lost father, Michael Andretti (La Paglia), a 'suitor' from the local high school, Jacob (Gurry), ongoing racial and class based abuse from schoolmate Carly Bishop (Carlow), and a tragedy involving one of her close friends (no spoilers!).
Melina Marchetta's book was published back in 1992 and has received wide critical acclaim. To her credit, she has adapted this quite well for film, although at times there is a sense of trying to cram just a little too much into an hour and half of film. While all the issues and sub plots are important to the story as a whole, the film often skims over some of these without fully fleshing them out, a good example being the relationship between Josie and Jacob which shifts in and out of prominence and is a little under baked.
Kate Woods first chance at directing a feature has been quite successful despite this, and she manages to get some nice work from her actors. Miranda in the lead role is fresh and believable as troubled teen about to have a truckload of adulthood dumped on her. Scaachi and La Paglia are both credible in their respective roles (funny but genuine reconciliation scene between father and daughter), although possibly slightly miscast in terms of supposedly being around the age of 34 - both seem much older. Cotta is superb as Nona Katia - she embodies the sicilian grandmother with near perfection. Gurry, Walsman and Newton do well in terms of capturing the class differences, although this does become a little pushed at times (eg the speech at the Opera House scene) and Newton, although admittedly in a difficult role, could have played his character down a little.
Loads of nice touches - the dream sequences (especially the "Nona Patrol" scene), the 'home movie feel' in the 'la famiglia' gatherings and a definite sense of believing in the relationships that are developed between the characters. On top of this we have some good cinematography from Toby Oliver who manages to make Sydney seem a truly international city and shows it off well to the world.
The thing that makes this movie above average in the end is that I think most will be able to relate to it in some way, which to me means that the cast, writer and director have mostly successfully done their jobs. A good film especially for anyone still in the throes of a large ethnic family or who has completed, or is soon to go through, that oh so crucial final year of secondary school. Bottom line philosophy - life wasn't meant to be easy, but we all get through somehow.
Theres something in "Looking For Alibrandi" for all of us..Believe me...see it for yourself and discover!!