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Looking For Alibrandi  

Director: Kate Woods
Cast: Pia Miranda, Greta Scacchi, Anthony LaPaglia, Matthew Newton, Kick Gurry, Elena Cotta
This is film achieves several rare distinctions: it achieved success on its own home ground of Australia, it was both popular with the public and the critics, it translated well from the book of the same name and it had wonderful actors who worked together like a charm.
Pia Miranda plays Josie, an intelligent and articulate high school girl in her final year, dealing with all the usual issues that is endemic to her age - stressing from exams, trying to get the boy of her dreams (Matthew Newton) to notice her - as well as other more serious issues: racism due to her Italian background, and having to deal with the fact her father, Michael (Anthony LaPaglia), has returned after a long absence. Josie is the illegitimate child of Christina (Greta Scacchi) and Michael, who had no idea that Christina was pregnant when he left 18 years ago. Her perpetually pessimistic grandmother (played with relished martyrdom by Elena Cotta) monitors her life with the help of a Gestapo-like network of friends and family, and is not particularly impressed that a rough-and-tumble boy, Jacob (Kick Gurry) turns up to court her granddaughter.

I was very surprised about how much I've actually enjoyed this movie - I thought it was a bit of a chick-flick - it is that, but the humour and down-to-earth charm of the cast makes it an absolute delight to watch. I even found myself cheering when Pia's character gave the lead racist Anglo bitch a right royal bruising in the face with the help of an obligingly heavy book, showing just how easy it was to get involved with the character on screen. Pia Miranda as Josie is simply brilliant - her large expressive face conveys the frustration, exasperation and suffering of a teenager trying to sort through a whole lot of issues with her life, her romances and her family. But special mention ought to be made of all the actors, of Scacchi, LaPaglia and Cotta, who was specifically brought over from Italy and who learnt her English dialogue phonetically. This movie is better in quality than most rites-of-passage films. Highly recommended.

Eden Law

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