Starring Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell, Jessica Mauboy, Chris O'Dowd
It seemed like Dreamgirls had clobbered the market in 2006 when it reigned supreme over the road to soul music success, even though it didn’t win best picture. In typical fashion, out of the blue comes an unexpected hit from Australia about the most unlikely soul singers who reinvent what Dreamgirls standardized. Australian films always bring a different aspect to a story you might think you have heard before, and that holds true with The Sapphires. It’s inspiring, well acted, and sheds light on a subject that I am sure many Americans are unaware of. The Sapphires, unlike Dreamgirls, isn’t focused on the music or the dream, rather on the four women behind it.
Four girls are singing on the back of a truck in 1958 to their Aboriginal family, we flash forward ten years and the girls, who are now young women, have managed to get a shot at singing in Saigon during the Vietnam war to the soldiers. With their drunken manager Dave (O’Dowd), mama-bear sister Gail (Mailman), love-crazy Cynthia (Tapsell) and lead singer Julie (Mauby), reconnect with their stolen light-skinned sister Kay (Sebbens) to become The Sapphires. The sound is marketable and the girls leave their isolated lives but have no clue about the danger they are about to get into. As the war rages, so does the drama and music among them.
The Sapphires resonates with more importance than Dreamgirls did, and is quite the crowd pleaser.
While this story is inspired by four incredible women, the characters are fictional and the story embellished for film purposes. Executive producer Harvey Weinstein understands the potential of The Sapphires, and although it will not be released until 2013, The Weinstein Company as distributor is making sure it plays at nearly every possible film festival. This film, with its great music and incredible voices, goes far beyond singers wanting to hit it big; it strikes at the heart of Australia’s discrimination towards the Aboriginal community during that period. Even beyond that, it addresses Kay’s situation, an aboriginal who looks white and how she is treated.
Bridesmaids star O’Dowd is incredibly funny in The Sapphires, getting off to a great start as he explains why black girls singing country western music is “just wrong” and argues that their future lies with soul music. The film justifies each of the main characters by giving them equal amounts of screen time and plot devices. Filled with incredibly humorous moments and certainly heartfelt ones, The Sapphires resonates with more importance than Dreamgirls did, and is quite the crowd pleaser.
Rousing and heartfelt.