As I have stated previously, I am a sucker for group singing. Also, I am a sucker for civil rights movies. And Australian film The Sapphires appeared to involve a bit of both – so off to the cinema I headed.
The Sapphires tells the true (though how much is true you never can be sure) story of four Aboriginal singers who manage to get a gig touring Vietnam during the war and cheering up the troops. It focuses on the four individuals within the group – all strong characters in themselves – as well as their gregarious but well intentioned Irish manager, played by the always hilarious Chris O’Dowd. We follow them from their beginnings in the outback, to the violence of Vietnam, and back again. With a soul music soundtrack of course.
It is predicted that The Sapphires will be an international hit. And I can see why. It is an ‘issue’ movie without letting itself get bogged down in the issues. It deals with parts of Australian history – like the Stolen Generation – that many mainstream movie goers won’t already know about. It also bluntly deals with the racism faced by not just Aboriginals in the 1960s, but also African Americans fighting for their country in Vietnam but still not considered equal citizens in the country they were laying their lives down for. But it doesn’t wallow in and preach about these issues. They are there, in the foreground in a way that can’t be ignored, but also not entirely crucial to the plot. They are, to borrow a metaphor from last week’s blog, the cough mixture covered by the sugary goodness of the main story itself.
And it is hard not to enjoy the main narrative. A group of young girls from the back woods of Australia become huge stars in Vietnam and bring happy smiles to the faces of troops the whole country over? Some fantastic soul singing? And a few solid romantic sub-plots thrown in for good measure? It is a recipe that is hard to resist, and I for one couldn’t stop my toe tapping or a few tears forming now and then.
The strong performances helped of course. The four members of the group – played by Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman (The Secret Life of Us, Rabbit Proof Fence), Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsel – all have personality up the wazoo, and give great vocal performances. But stealing the show (for me at least and I must confess I have a wee crush so that could be why) is Chris O’Dowd. You know, the tall Irish bloke from Bridesmaids? Yep, him. He is charming, hilarious, earnest and really, really, really can’t dance. Gotta respect someone who is willing to look like a prat on screen, and he seems to have no hesitation doing so 😉
So, in summation, this is a great flick for a Sunday afternoon – and will be enjoyed by you, your parents, and your grandparents. And if you love soul music, even better. A very multi-coloured three and a half M&Ms for The Sapphires.