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Looking for Alibrandi - Pia Miranda, Greta Scacchi, Anthony Lapaglia

Threat advisory: Severe - Severe risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Sometimes what you're looking for is closer than you think.

With three generations of strong-willed women, life is never dull around the Alibrandi household. Inter-generational conflict, the sometimes uneasy adaptation of cultural traditions to new environments, changing boundaries for women, love, maturity and self identity are all explored through Josie (Pia Miranda), Christina (Greta Scacchi) and Nonna Katia's (Elena Cotta) volatile and complex relationships.

Josie's world is split between her home and family in inner western Sydney and her school, a prestigious private Catholic girls' school in the eastern suburbs. Here, under the watchful eye of headmistress Sister Louise (Kerry Walker) she and her friends from the wrong side of town negotiate the taunts of the ruling in-group, led by Carly Bishop (Leanna Walsman), the Anglo-Australian princess. Josie's desire to be a part of the privileged world of middle class Australia is at odds with her chaotic, unconventional home life - and with her own strong and individualistic spirit.

Her confusion is heightened by her first experiences of love, in which she finds herself torn between the handsome, high achieving private school boy John Barton (Matthew Newton) and the scruffy, non conformist Jacob Coote (Kick Gurry).

And then she suddenly has to negotiate a relationship with a third man - Michael Andretti (Anthony Lapaglia), the father who she has never met.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Looking for Alibrandi image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film drama teen school coming-of-age migrant Australia growing up second generation family

Persons of interest

  • Greta Scacchi .... Christina Alibrandi
  • Anthony LaPaglia .... Michael Andretti
  • Elena Cotta .... Katia Alibrandi
  • Kerry Walker .... Sister Louise
  • Pia Miranda .... Josie Alibrandi
  • Kick Gurry .... Jacob Coote
  • Matthew Newton .... John Barton
  • Leanne Carlow .... Sera Conti
  • Diane Viduka .... Anna Selicic
  • Leeanna Walsman .... Carly Bishop
  • Michael Gallina .... Robert
  • Rosa DiMarte .... Patrizia
  • Domenico DiMarte .... Riccardo
  • Tyrone Lara .... Anton Valavic
  • Geoff Morrell .... Mr Barton
  • Graeme Blundell .... Ron Bishop
  • Ned Manning .... Mr Coote
  • Salvatore Coco .... Angelo Pezzini
  • Octavia Barron-Martin .... Carly's Friend
  • Rose Frasca .... Signora Carmela
  • David Lucas .... Paul Presilio
  • Linden Wilkinson .... Mrs Barton
  • Carol Willesee .... Mrs Bishop
  • Melina Marchetta .... Author
  • Melina Marchetta .... Screenwriter
  • Kate Woods .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

An Australian teen flick that isn't about losing virginity. In fact, Looking for Alibrandi treats the teenagers as well as it does the adults: they have fears, desires, torments and suffer from the same misapprehensions as real people do. You know, the ones who aren't up there on the big screen.

What's more, Looking for Alibrandi is so good that I recommend it to all schools as part of the English literature curriculum. It deals with problems from a teenage point of view that are all but ignored by polite society: suicide, parental pressures, family pressures, broken homes, friendship, love, bigotry and multi-culturalism. Every issue is dealt with intelligently and sensitively within the context of the main story but none are glossed over in favour of plot, pace or a good joke.

Pia Miranda is great in the lead role, looking and resenting every inch of third generation wog culture. She's funny, she's sexy, she's biting, she's intelligent... she's just plain hot. Greta and Anthony orbit Pia, gravity pulling them and her this way and that. The mother/daughter scenes are intense in the way that two strong-willed women living in the same house will produce. The father/daughter scenes are more distant but retain a touching sentiment without falling into the trap of sentimentality. Life is not like a chocolate box, sometimes you end up with fish and chips.

(Please don't ask me what that means, I have no idea and I'm also feeling a bit peckish.)

The two love interests for Josie, John and Jacob, are a clever touch. There is a Hollywood conspiracy that teenagers are unable to hold more than one thought in their heads at a time, let alone be attracted to two completely different guys. Pia, Matthew and Kick blow that out of the water with a romantic triangle which could fill an entire film by itself. Matthew's tragic boy who has everything and Kick's tragic boy who has nothing go beyond the stereotypes to live and breathe on the silver screen. There are big futures for both of them; Matthew even does a better and handsomer Leonardo Dicaprio than Leo himself.

At the other end of the generation gap, Elena is so Italian you can smell the oregano, but she is also an Aussie, proud, independent and wilful (no need to wonder where Christina and Josie got it from). Her character drives the home troubles like el niño and la niña all at once.

In building the plot structure around the school year, Melina gives you a comfortable and familiar device to absorb the story but it's never so invasive that you can't wait for the homecoming parade (there isn't one, of course, this is Australia, but this is a good time for me to throw in a general criticism of Hollywood teen films and their addiction to homecoming queens, quarterbacks, cheerleaders and graduations - don't they realise that teenagers have a life outside of these archaic and elitist traditions?)

Looking for Alibrandi is an excellent film that everyone will enjoy despite its lack of guns and explosions. It's well written, it's well made, it's well performed and it's destined to become an Australian classic so see it on the big screen as soon as you can.

PS: You might like to compare Looking for Alibrandi with Anywhere but here, a recent Hollywood film about daughters and mothers going head to head in Beverley Hills (where else?).

Security censorship classification

M (Adult themes, low level coarse language)

Surveillance time

103 minutes (1:43 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

DVD retail: 11 April 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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