The Sapphires (directed by Wayne Blair) is loosely based on the true story of four Aboriginal women, who followed their dreams and performed for the American troops in Vietnam. The story is a standard, heart-warming fare. The girls (played by Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell) are discovered during a talent competition by a loveable Irish music scout (Chris O’ Dowd). Together, they escape horrible racism through the medium of soul music, and learn many life lessons along the way.
Based on a successful stage production, this story is a cheesy, easy-to-watch type. The script is by no means fantastic and it’s difficult to really develop an emotional connection to the gritty social issues that these women are facing. At many points, the horrendous treatment of Aboriginal people in Australia is portrayed as a minor bump along the road to success, rather than a genuine struggle against adversity.
What saves this film from becoming trite and unwatchable is O’ Dowd’ s performance. He delivers for several laugh out loud moments, and really invigorates the formulaic plot with genuine warmth and heart. His interactions with the oldest sister (Mailman, who embodies the ‘mama bear’ trope without becoming cartoonish – no easy feat) are genuinely funny, and the audience finds itself really getting behind his underdog persona, willing him to succeed.
Another saving grace this movie has to offer is its soundtrack. While it may not be successful in its attempts to create an audience which is emotionally invested in the success of its four leading women, one cannot deny that The Sapphires have serious soul. Incredible renditions of song like I Heard it Through the Grapevine, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar PieHoney Bunch), and What a Man pepper the story. This is a movie which will have a very successful soundtrack.
The Sapphires won’t win any awards. If you like your cinema to be perfectly – or competently – put together, this is not for you. If you are looking for an easy, lightweight story, with some great songs and a big heart, then look no further. Watch the trailer now on MEG.ie. In cinemas from 02 November 2012.