Looking for Alibrandi begins light-heartedly, and the viewer gets a very quick understanding of Josie's character through her interactions with her friends and family. As the film progresses, the glamour that is initially associated with Josie begins to fade as she struggles to cope with her final year of school (especially the racist attitude of one girl in particular, Carly Bishop (Leeanna Walsman)), the suicide of her crush, John Barton (Matthew Newton), and meeting with Michael Andretti (Anthony LaPaglia), her father, of whom has only just found out about her existence upon returning to Sydney for work. She also has continual conflict with her grandmother, Katia Alibrandi (Elena Cotta).
However, these complications are seemingly resolved quickly, in keeping with Josie's brusque and forthright outlook on life. For example, in response to Carly's continuous snide remarks, she breaks her tormentor's nose with a history textbook. It is this summary act that brings her father back into her life.
Another complication—the suicide of her close friend and unrequited crush, John Barton—tests her resilience. Struggling with her grief, she finds comfort to a certain extent within Jacob Coote, he was a 'bad boy' on the outside, but he was found out to be a sincere and caring person on the inside.
The most significant complication and challenge for Josie, though, is her rocky relationship with her father, Michael Andretti. When they finally get to know each other, and recognise themselves in each other, their rift heals, and she can confide in him.
The film is produced by Robyn Kershaw. The entire film was filmed in the Sydney area, including such locations as Glebe (Alibrandi's house), Bondi Beach, Sydney Central Station on Eddy Avenue, the Studio space and entrance of Sydney Opera House (the Have your Say Day scene), George Street/Anzac Bridge (the scene where Jacob Coote sent Josephine Alibrandi home with his motorcycle), the Scots College and Kincoppal School were also used throughout the film, the main Quadrangle of University of Sydney (the John Barton and Josephine Alibrandi scene), Village Cinema (Jacob and Josie's date) and Oporto (where Josie works part-time).
The film, while not well known in international markets, has received critical acclaim for its insights into both the second-generation-migrant experience and the universal human condition.
Looking for Alibrandi was Kate Woods' directorial debut in film; Woods was acclaimed for "giving [the film's] multicultural terrain the true respect and depth it deserves."
Looking for Alibrandi won five awards at the 2000 AFI Awards:Best Film- presented to producer Robyn Kershaw
Best Lead Actress- Pia Miranda
Best Supporting Actress- Greta Scacchi
Best Adapted Screenplay- Melina Marchetta (adapted from her own novel)
Best Film Editing- Martin Connor
Looking for Alibrandi grossed $8,300,000 at the box office in Australia.