After writing and posting my review on Melina Marchetta’s first novel, Looking For Alibrandi, and reading the comments that were coming in, I couldn’t help myself. I watched the movie. Maybe it was a little bit of Alibrandi overload but I’m a glutton in all things, so I have a pretty high tolerance.* And boy am I glad I did. Because now I get to sit here and compare the two. Similar to Meghan’s smackdown post, I will compare the book and movie to make a highly scientific assessment of which is better.
* Maybe I originally watched Veronica Mars Season 1 in a single sitting. MAYBE. Maybe not. But maybe.
Meet the Contestants
Title: Looking for Alibrandi
Author: Melina Marchetta
Title: Looking for Alibrandi
17 year old Josie is finishing her senior year and biding time with the hope that she’ll go to college to study law. She has a complicated relationship with her grandmother and extended family. Her grandmother was an Italian immigrant to Australia and some of her outdated ideas and moral clash with Josie’s modern Australian upbringing. And her senior year because exponentially more interesting with the return of her long lost father and her introduction to Jacob Coote, public school bad boy. Very little is changed to the plot between the book and the movie. The changes are minor, but interesting when you consider that Marchetta wrote the script herself.
Note: From here on out, there will be spoilers.
Now, I don’t often feel this way about movie adaptations, but the casting of Looking for Alibrandi was nearly perfect. Pia Miranda was absolutely delightful. Her portrayal of Josie was feistier than I had read the character and I found myself immediately liking her (whereas that took a bit more time while reading.) I can’t remember the last time I watched such a likable teen lead in a movie.
I also liked Jacob Coote much more in the movie version that I did in the book. I just couldn’t quiiite feel the swoon in the novel. The actor playing Jacob, however, was able to show that adorable cockiness and the chemistry between him and Pia was undeniable. John Barton was charming and looked just how I could have pictured him, down to him dorky Zack Morris hair.* Anthony LaPaglia was great as Michael Andretti. While the woman who played Christina was excellent (and actually is native Italian), she looked so different from her family that I had a hard time believing they could have kept her parentage a secret for 35 years. I mean, really?
My chief complaint would be have to have been Nonna Katie. I found her much funnier and (ultimately) likable in the book. The woman who played her was all right, but the combination of Italian accent and Australian accent really did me in. She’d switch back and forth between Italian and English and i could barely pick up any of that she was saying and was basically all huuuuuh? for most of her scenes (but then, this is a personal problem.)
*Okay, so I’ve completely convinced myself that John Barton is gay. I kiiiinda thought so in my reading of the book and felt more confident of that feeling during the movie. I Googled and found a few other people questioning that as well. But then of course there is the He is SO not gay crowd. One person was so offended, saying “But he told Josie how into her he was in the book!” Which, since I just read it, I know it was something along the lines of “I was really into you in year ten.” Ummm, having a crush on a girl doesn’t make you not gay. I had this one friend in college who told me later how much he was into me at one point. Do you know where he is now? Gay-engaged to a man. So, there’s that…
The movie had some whimsical elements to it (Josie’s fantasies) not present in the book and I preferred the more realistic approach of the book. Also, the movie definitely less major points from me by PLAYING U2 FOR THE FUNERAL SCENE. I just…whhhy? After their disastrous first date, I had a hard time buying how movie-version Josie and Jacob feel into each others arms. The book’s build up seemed more natural, but I forgive the movie because those actors are just too cute together. I wasn’t really into the “Let’s all be Italian and dance” ending of the movie, but I didn’t feel like the book’s ending wowed me either. I was pretty surprised that Josie and Jacob ended up together at the end of the movie, but then I remember I DON’T LIKE SAD THINGS and preferred it.*
*Though, the book’s whole “I’m dumping you because you’re too good for me” was totally classic. Who hasn’t had someone dump them and act like they’re so damn noble and doing you a favor? Maybe some of you have pulled that move yourselves, I’d wager.
Both the book and the movie are excellent and this is the kind of comparison that could really go either way. Personally, I’m going to have to go with the movie. My reasoning is that there are dozens of really excellent YA books that come out every year. How many good YA movies do we get? And of those, how many are even remotely realistic? Don’t get me wrong, I love my Bring It Ons and my Mean Girls and my 17 Agains (yes really), but they don’t have real characters. Looking For Alibrandi is the kind of movie that hardly ever gets made. And for that, I dub it the winner.
So what are your thoughts, Alibrandi fans? Agree or disagree? And what did you like best about the movie?