Posted by: greercn | November 8, 2012

The Sapphires

This entertaining film crams a great deal into its 103 minutes. Set in 1968, “The Sapphires” tells the story of four young Australian Aboriginal women who become a girl group and entertain the American troops in Vietnam.

Based on a stage play written by Tony Briggs, who co-writes the movie, it goes into the real life experiences of his mother, Laurel Robinson.

Aboriginal people were excluded and shunned and early scenes show this, while keeping their focus on the dreams of the young women at the heart of the story.

Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) plays Dave, the manager who trains them to be soul stars. O’Dowd does a very good job as the soul music obsessive, moulding his young charges into dancers and compelling singers.

Deborah Mailman is the only survivor from the original cast and she has amazing presence here. Jessica Mauboy is Julie and she is affecting as the youngster and the best voice of the group.

Wayne Blair directs and the pace never flags.

It’s fun, but it crams too much in. Racism, Vietnam and personal relationships always feel real, but key moments are over too quickly. “The Sapphires” could have used an extra half hour to flesh out a few plot lines.

Still, rural Australia looks great and the recreation of Saigon and other locations in Vietnam has real power.

Fans of soul music will really enjoy the terrific soundtrack, too.

Tory Kittles as Robby is exceptionally convincing. For a film about four women, “The Sapphires” comes most alive when O’Dowd and Kittles are together. Individually, both actors lift the scenes they are in but together, they have the best chemistry in the movie.

When one key love story is revealed, I was genuinely shocked. Honestly, apart from a little snarling, I had no idea these characters were forming a bond.

Shari Sebbens as Cynthia and Miranda Tapsell as Kay round out the girls and are great, but one problem with this movie is the way they are seem as stereotypes.

It all gallops along very effectively and the big song numbers are gorgeous to watch and hear.

The audience at the Stratford Picturehouse all enjoyed it although I would have discouraged many of those who were attempting to sing along.

It’s a fun movie, with a genuine attempt to explain difficult political and personal situations. It owes a debt to “Dreamgirls” and to “Rabbit-Proof Fence” but I will look forward to  anything Wayne Blair makes next as there are so many scenes in this which show his deft touches and talent.

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Responses

  1. On a plane back from Perth, I was lucky enough to see The Sapphires as the in flight movie. It isn’t a perfect movie-it certainly conforms to many of the tropes of rise-to-success and Benedict-and-Beatrice romances. But there a couple of things about it which stand out. It shows indigenous women with agency, women who are determined and make their own opportunites. Proud, black Australian women who are strong, talented, beautiful, sexual and unapologetic about who they are. They are fun, they are happy. They face institutionalised racism and individual racism, and there are struggles with their own cultural and historical legacy. But mostly it is about strong women who have fun, have choices and make their own way in the world. At the end of the film we learn about the real women the film characters are based on – women who have spent their lives making the world a better place.


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