The Sapphires came out ages ago in Australia, and ages ago in the UK, and is just now arriving in the US. I saw it on the plane from Vancouver to Auckland and have been mainlining the soundtrack for a couple weeks, as well as becoming an unironic Jessica Mauboy fan (she won Australian Idol and then starred in The Sapphires, which has led reviewers to call it an Aussie Dreamgirls…and that’s pretty on the nose).
The movie is based on the true story of a girl group made of Aboriginal (Yorta Yorta, to be specific) sisters and cousins who toured Vietnam entertaining soldiers in 1968. It focuses on the self-identity of the members of the group, who find parallels between their lives and that of the African American soldiers they meet in Vietnam. The story is about the triumph of the individual women in the group, who are thrust into a world they could not possibly have been prepared for and who gain, over the course of the movie, a new perspective on their identity. Plus they learn fairly conventional things about love and friendship.
The movie is delightful. While predictable in places, and understandably reminiscent of Dreamgirls, the film is prevented from total saccharine-ness by the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the very real persecution that these women faced well into the 1970s. And the fact that its a true(ish) story makes the whole thing pretty easy to get behind.
And since the movie is set in the 1960s, the whole thing is thread through with Jessica Mauboy singing the lead on 60s classics, like the Jackson 5’s ‘Who’s Loving You’ and ‘What a Man.’ I was sold from the first lines, when three of the sisters sing Merle Haggard’s ‘Today I Started Loving You Again.’ Afterward, the man who subsequently becomes their manager, played by Chris O’Dowd upbraids them for singing country and not soul. O’Dowd is as adorable, and maybe even more so, than in Bridesmaids and would be reason enough to see the movie. But the rest of it is great too.
As I said, I saw it on a plane. But I would happily pay $10 to see it in theatres and I encourage you to do the same. I’m sure the period costumes will look fantastic on the big screen.