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Looking for Alibrandi

Reviewed By Stephen Groenewegen
Posted 08/23/00 08:17:22

"Spanning the Generations"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Looking for Alibrandi is a sparkling adaptation, capturing all the vibrancy of the popular Australian novel. Book and film successfully capture the dizziness and release of the final year of high school from the teenager's point of view.

Josie Alibrandi (Pia Miranda in a star-making performance) is a second generation Australian, living with her single mother (Greta Scacchi). Her Italian-born, widowed grandmother (Elena Cotta) lives nearby (Cotta, unable to speak English, recited her English lines phonetically). Alibrandi has its fair share of coming-of-age drama cliches - the return of the absent father, the school-mate who seems to have it all, the boy from the wrong
side of the tracks, the dark family secret. But through Miranda's energetic performance, and Kate Woods' direction, these cliches don't feel familiar. They are simply how Josie views her life. Woods' light touch prevents the melodrama becoming stodgy and her efforts are aided by a talented cast (including Matthew Newton, Kick Gurry and Anthony LaPaglia).

Melina Marchetta, who wrote the screenplay from her novel, demonstrates a great instinct for picking what works, and what doesn't, on the screen. She's also unafraid to make her adult characters sympathetic and interesting (all too rare in films about teenagers). Alibrandi should appeal to all generations, but will have special resonance for young Australians, who aren't used to seeing their stories told in the cinema with such skill.

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