Directed by: Kate Woods
Written by:Melina Marchetta
Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Greta Scacchi, Pia Miranda, Matthew Newton
Released: May 4, 2000
Grade: A-

Based on the advertising and publicity for Looking For Alibrandi, I was expecting an Aussie take on the low quality teen romantic genre that American’s have been mss producing over the past few years.  In a pleasant surprise, I was wrong.

Having lived in Australia all her life, Josie Alibrandi (Miranda) is a feisty seventeen year old with an Italian heritage.  Her mother and grandmother insist on enriching her with Italian culture but Josie just can’t wait to move out and become independent.  She attends a rich all-girls school where she is vice-captain and an outspoken public speaker.  Josie’s never had a father and can only attend the school on a scholarship she was awarded.

John Barton (Newton) is the dashing school captain of the local all-boys school and has been good friends with Josie over the years.  Their relationship has never taken that next step but Josie longs for the day when John will ask her out and they’ll live happily ever after.  Things get complicated however when fellow debater Jacob (Kick Gurry) asks her out and Josie finds herself lured by his charm.  Is it possible for her to fall in love with someone other than John Barton?

The screenplay has its strengths and weaknesses but the acting is second-to-none.  Greta Scacchi and Anthony LaPaglia play the two parents and are super.  Their roles are not forced.  The two real finds of the movie though are Pia Miranda and Matthew Newton.

Miranda is superb as Josie and her career should blossom as a result - she is a real find.  She has personality and flair and personifies the emotion required to bring her character to life.  In a contrast to American movies, the heartthrob who’s affections are lusted upon by all is not such a perfect character.  From the moment he is introduced, there is something different about John.  He’s just a regular guy with intelligence.  There’s a great scene the two share when swapping letters in the university library.

What makes the film even more special is that it is Australian and does capture an Australian ambiance.  It doesn’t follow American trends in becoming boringly predictable and monotonous.  The fate of some these characters will surprise you.

Looking For Alibrandi doesn’t propose to solve life problems.  It doesn’t suggest that all the popular good-looking guys are jerks and that true love conquers all.  For once, I enjoyed the way an Australian film was promoted because it doesn’t tell you everything that will happen and in fact leads you away from the truth.  It’s a heartwarming tale of an effervescent 17-year-old girl who struggles with a dysfunctional life at home and at school.  Keep your eye out for Miranda and Newton in new movies coming soon - this should be the first of many.  Clearly one of the best Australian films in ages, it’ll have one of my votes at the AFI Awards later this year.