Movie Review: Looking for Alibrandi

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
Take: the freshness of AMELIE, the wit and cross-cultural issues in BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, the humor and wisdom in SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, and the debut-film acting virtuosity of Catalina Sondino Moreno of MARIA FULL OF GRACE, and you get Australia's newly released film, LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI starring first-time film actress Pia Miranda as Josephine Alibrandi -- Josie.

LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI is based on a novel of the same name by Melina
Marchetta who also co-wrote the script. This is a heart-felt, intelligent and gently humorous girl - coming of age story. As soon as I saw it I ordered the book for my teenaged daughter.

Josie is the seventeen year-old daughter of Christina (Greta Scacchi). She
and her mother have a close and loving relationship; they get along well,
but Josie is frustrated that her mother is so strict. Her grandmother Nonna
Katia (Elena Cotta) is even stricter, and says that the Alibrandi women have
a curse on them ever since Josie was born out of wedlock. Josie and her
mother live in Sydney, Australia, and are part of a large extended Sicilian
immigrant family. The relatives never accept the fact that Christina had
Josie out of wedlock.

Like all teenaged girls, Josie just wants is to fit in – but she comes up short. She wants to break away from her Italian family and be more like her friends. She attends a fancy Catholic school where one’s father’s salary is everything. A bigoted student ridicules Josie about her Italian heritage. Josie loses her temper and gets in trouble. She is filled with conflict and about her romantic choices. Although she has only the best intentions in school, and even starts the year telling herself she's going to be a saint, she is usually in trouble with the head nun. To make things more complicated, Michael Andretti (Anthony LaPaglia), her mother's old flame comes back to town and he turns out to be her father. They each learn about each other for the first time and work on forging a relationship.

The pivotal point of the film comes when Josie learns some secrets about her mother and grandmother and realizes how strong they are and how much she admires them.

Pia Miranda is so well suited for this roll that it could have been written for her. Her big brown eyes are expressive and intelligent; she pulls off both the drama and humor with flair. The rest of the cast is enjoyable to watch, well suited for their roles, and skilled at acting. LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI is very funny, but also filled with sound motherly wisdom. Teenaged girls and women will relate to the conflicts and joys the film so deftly explores.

For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield. ©
Air date 6/13/05
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Looking for Alibrandi