The Sapphires

26 Mar

the sapphires


Director: Wayne Blair

Writers: Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson

Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 103 minutes



The Sapphires are a singing group made up of four related Aboriginal girls (three sisters and a cousin). The year is 1968 and the girls are about to have the adventure of a lifetime entertaining the troops in Vietnam. Under the tutelage of a somewhat seedy, and certainly disorganized, Irish manager the four girls drop the harmonized country and western ballads and take up rump-shaking soul music. Almost overnight they find themselves playing gigs, under fire and in a country that’s a whole long way from their Aussie outback home. It is a crazy story and it happens to be true.

Chris O’Dowd plays the wayward manager and the Sapphires include a successful solo artist in Jessica Mauboy (as youngest sister Julie) and well-known theatre, TV and film actor Deborah Mailman (as eldest sister Gail). The cast is good. O’Dowd gets some great lines and, playing the fool with gusto, he almost steals the film from the singing quartet. Actually all those involved put in full-blooded performances and there is a feel-good vibe through the film. In some ways The Sapphires is a little old-fashioned. And it has a familiar feel even though it is based on a unique tale.

Overall, it is difficult not to like this film. The soundtrack dazzles, the action moves quickly, and the girls mostly have fun. There are, however, a few problems that come from the speed of storytelling. Racism is front and centre at times, but promoted and dropped in quick order. The film-makers show the racist mistreatment of the black Australian singers and the black American soldiers, but don’t focus on it. The issue of forced adoption of young Aboriginal children is also important to the story, but sandwiched between rehearsals, gigs and parties. It is a difficult blend to manage and the film-makers do OK with it, but it is clunky at times.

5 Responses to “The Sapphires”

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