The Sapphires Wayne Blair

The Sapphires Wayne Blair
7
The idea of music as a unifying force may not exactly be a novel one on which to hang a movie, but it hardly matters if done well. This is how you end up with The Sapphires, a light-hearted charmer that celebrates its transformative influence and generously provides each of its terrific young leads with a well-drawn character possessing individual hopes and obstacles. Three aboriginal sisters in late '60s Australia live a segregated existence where they sing melancholic country and western covers at a dismal local talent show. Gail (Deborah Mailman) is the oldest and most controlling; Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) is the easiest on the eyes; and Julie (Jessica Mauboy) possesses the best voice. Though they lose the competition based on the color of their skin, they manage to persuade the talent show's piano player and MC, Dave (Chris O'Dowd), to help them audition for a gig entertaining the troops in Vietnam. After adding estranged, light-skinned cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) as a fourth member, they take Dave's advice and re-invent themselves as the titular soul group by learning such standards as "Land of a Thousand Dances" and "I'll Take You There." Once outside of their sheltered community, they perform a busy schedule of shows to captivated audiences in Vietnam and are subjected to new experiences involving booze, love and the first-hand horrors of war. Though the setting may be rife with political and social issues, the coming-of-age story smartly allows these to merely color the human drama by focusing on the dynamics within the group. The warm, funny tone is helped along by the potent chemistry of the girls and the affable presence of O'Dowd as a reluctant manager drawn further into their lives than he could ever have imagined. The insistence on never straying too far from a winning formula may make things a little predictable, at times, but the journey is too much fun to seriously lament the destination. There are three short documentaries included on the disc, the best of which is a conversation with the real-life group that inspired the story. Making this interview even more compelling is the fact that it's conducted by the film's co-writer, who also happens to be one of their sons. Elsewhere, a serviceable making-of reveals the exhaustive search that went into casting the group's ladies and Mauboy walks the viewer through her approach to the vocals in a mostly forgettable look at the soundtrack. (eOne)