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Looking For Alibrandi is a book and movie which would strongly appeal to the teenage audience because they could relate to parts of the story and perhaps would appeal also to parents who might get insight into the mind of what their children may be dealing with and thinking about in life. It’s an interesting look at the life and thoughts of someone whose family isn’t originally Australian and what they have to go through.
It hopefully shows readers things from their perspective so as they will stand back and understand how life is for them and their families before they judge them harshly.
The book highlights the staging of growing up where teenagers learn that their problems in the world are somewhat insignificant to the lives of their friends who have deeper problems; which happens quite often as people move from teenagehood to adulthood. Such as the sentence: “I feel guilty in a way. Because I go on so much about my problems but compared to John and all the other lonely people out there, I’m the luckiest person in the world.”
The book is very clever in the way that it turns the narrow-minded thoughts of those who call others ‘wogs’ and say ‘go back to your own country’ around into showing that their life is somewhat lacking compared to Josie’s life, by the sentence: “I hope I never have to live in a country when I can’t communicate with my neighbour.”
There are quite a few differences between the book and the movie.
From the very beginning of the movie, there is a noticeable change to the book version.
The scene begins in Josie’s grandmother’s backyard with all of her relatives gathered around chatting, eating, drinking and squashing tomatoes, which they called ‘Tomato day’ and is an ongoing tradition in the family. Josie talks about national wog day.
This part of the movie is not shown in the book until much later on.
Another difference is that in the book; the beginning starts off with Josie sitting in a religion class reading a magazine and getting caught off guard by the head teacher, having to explain herself in front of the class.
She also introduces herself and her family a chapter later whereas in the first scenes she begins to explain to the viewer about who she is, though in the book she goes deeper into her and her family’s story, such as where abouts they live, what kind of job her mother has, like the sentence: “She works as a secretary and translator for a few doctors in Leichhardt”
In the movie you see pretty much none of this and the viewer would have had to have read the book beforehand to get an understanding about where they’re living and the relationships and personality of others.
However what the movie lacks in describing the area they live in, it makes up for by showing a lot of the Sydney scenery such as the harbour bridge, the city cinema strip, the Glebe area and Bondi Beach.
You can hear Josie’s thoughts in the background but they seem to be emphasizing more on her sarcasm rather than really showing the viewer what they would really need to know which you get instead from reading the book.
There are no definite personalities shown through Josie’s friends: Sara and Lee.
In the book she describes each of them and the way they interact with each other.
The movie seems to just clump them all together, Josie the main character so therefore she is the one the emphasis is on and the viewer is never allowed at all close to either of the other girls.
Michael Andretti comes into the movie much earlier than in the book and the scene is altered when Josie’s mother is standing in the room with Josie, confronting Michael when she says: “Be angry, but don’t pretend I’m not here!”
The book version: only Josie is present in the room with Michael Andretti and they never seem to get a chance to be all together and talk things over.
Some scenes have been cut, and some scenes have been added to the film. As well as some changes.
Scenes that were added/cut/changed include:
-Carly’s nickname by Josie: ‘Poison Ivy’ is not used in the film, only using her real name.
-Josie works in Oportos in the movie, and McDonalds in the book.
-Josie is taught how to drive by Michael Andretti, which isn’t in the book.
-In the beginning there is a part where Josie and the students of St Mary’s are sitting in the church and handed out cards with pictures of saints on them. Josie looks at her card and imagines the man with a sword cutting the woman’s head off, then magically being replaced with an image of Josie’s own face, as if she will be the one to put things right again to everything bad that has happened. (not in the book)
-She imagines John and Carly walking down some stairs together with everyone throwing confetti at them. This isn’t described in the book.
-She imagines herself with John Barton if he became prime minister, Carly standing in the crowd trying desperately to get them to answer her question.
-Imagining Carly stepping out from a limousine with cameras flashing everywhere.
-Josie attends a soccer match with John Barton when he starts talking about how his father has said to him, “One of my sons will one day lead this country back into the path of glory and I feel it can easily be John” In the book version they are not at a soccer match, but at a debating session between the two schools.
-The chatter beforehand between Josie and Jacob has been cut, and it leaps straight into Josie and Jacob’s speech, a shot of Josie sitting next to John, Jacob winking and a brief moment of conversation and then moving forward to the next scene.
-In the scene where Josie is being lectured by the teacher about her magazine and Josie replies to Sister Louise: “and let me assure you, sister, he’s not referring to his height!” you would imagine the class as stone cold and not making one sound, even mad at her, from the way the book writes it, but in the movie everyone is laughing. The same goes for Jacob’s speech, there is more shown on the crowd’s reactions to his speech: the laughing, smiling, clapping and whistling.
-The first time Josie mentions Jacob’s mother in the book, she says: “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?” to which Jacob tells her his story. In the movie Josie says to him when they park his motorcycle: “Doesn’t your mother worry about you on that thing?”
-Josie appears joyous and excited when riding on Jacob’s motorbike, screaming out in happiness as if it’s an exciting new adventure for her. In the book she is hating the ride and is more worried about the whole of Sydney catching a glimpse of her underwear.
-Jacob and Josie don’t have as many fights in the movie unlike the book and spend more time together happily than they do apart and arguing. They only appear to have one fight, which is resolved pretty soon afterwards, and that’s the scene where Jacob says he doesn’t meet mothers. The part where Josie doesn’t allow Jacob to meet her grandmother isn’t shown either.
-Book version: Josie hits Carly with her science book just before class starts because of her comment: “How dare you, you wog! And you’re more than a wog if you know what I mean!” whereas in the movie they are leaving church when Josie calls Carly a ‘bitch and Carly replies: ‘at least I’m not a bastard’ which prompts Josie to hit her with the science book.
-The cause of John Barton’s death in the book is swallowing tablets, but in the movie Carly tells Josie that he slit his wrists.
-Muck up day in the movie is more in depth with the St Andrew’s boys squirting the girls from St Mary’s with their water pistols, Jacob and Josie kissing amongst the chaos, and even Carly grimacing with flour all over her face.
-In the scene where the boys of St Anthony’s are walking down the corridor, there is the sound of harmonious choiresque singing to show the way the girls look to their arrival as something hopeful, something to make them escape from the reality of everyday with the lectures, homework and teachers and maybe to them, the only good thing to ever come out of the word Catholic school.
-Face paced music when Josie is talking about the Italians following her every move, to give a feeling of the way she feels rushed and tense.
-Sentimental piano music plays when Josie first meets her father, Michael Andretti like their looking into a piece of their past and even though they’ve never met before.
Camera-angles: Not too many standing-out camera angles in this movie. Most a medium-shot with everyone in the center, for most times.
However there is a long shot of Josie running from Jacob’s house when she has refused to have sex with him, the camera moves backwards as the pieces of John’s note flies out of her window and a close up of her face to show her devastated yet numb emotion when she is at Sydney Harbour with Jacob after John dies.
Reading the book before watching the movie, you get an entirely different sense of the characters.
Jacob seems a lot more scruffy in his dress sense than his appearance in the film; his personality seems more dominant, angry and overpowering than in the film, he has a calmer voice and lets things go, even making up with Josie at the end of a scene such as the one where Josie nearly loses her virginity. When Jacob says he doesn’t meet mothers, he says it almost apologetically whereas in the book he seems quite argumentative about it all.
Josie’s comebacks sound humourous and light-hearted in the book and it makes you wonder why her grandmother appears to over-react to some of the things she says; but in the movie she seems very vicious, overly sarcastic and threatening in the tone of her voice and you can understand why people react the way they do with her.
The movie ‘Looking For Alibrandi’ is a fair attempt at portraying the characters and circumstances which occur in the book.
The actors match pretty well with the characters in the book, although some might imagine Josie’s mother to perhaps look a little bit more like a stereotypical Italian woman.
However, the movie is kept at such a distance from so much that happens throughout the book, it seems very rushed, and it’s hard to become emotionally attached to any of the characters in the movie; whereas the book is much deeper, thought-provoking and you can care a lot more for them, especially when John Barton dies.
The book shows Josie’s inner thoughts about the way the Italian society acts towards each other, what she’s feeling, the way she is portrayed as someone very different from the usual Australian, because her family is originally Italian.
The movie fast-paces through most of this, leaving a sense of emptiness and disappointment from what seemed like an excellent, emotion-filled book.