Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: The Sapphires

This familiar but supremely well-told and produced tale of the unlikely rise of an Aboriginal female pop group in the Vietnam War-era is feel-good entertainment at its best. Performances, solid script and great music all hit the high notes.

March 21, 2013

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1373888-Sapphires_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires, teeming with R&B and other rock hits of the late ’60s and early ’70s, might ring too tidy and contrived to be mostly true, but audiences won’t care because the film delivers that tricky equation of smart, satisfying entertainment.

Wayne Blair directed this rollicking and rowdy delight focusing on the rise to prominence of a believable and winning all-girl quartet in the Aussie hinterlands. Discovered and groomed by a savvy but dissolute Irish music vet on the skids, the quartet goes on to make a splash entertaining the troops in Vietnam. And they bring home some of that fame and, certainly, the wisdom they learned on that faraway road.

The Weinsteins, delivering the goods, remind that their roots were in the rock scene (in Buffalo, New York). They assure that The Sapphires is wise and loving in its evocation of both the beloved sounds, an ethos of those crazy times, and the types drawn to and ascending in the often messy music scene back then.

It’s 1968, and a perfect storm of change crosses continents: a repudiation of old values and embrace of the new amidst historic assassinations and a much-maligned war. In rural Australia, three young Australian sisters—Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell)—live on a sparse farmstead, and they too long for change.

An opportunity arises when they read about a talent competition in a nearby town. As is the norm in such films (and even in real life), each group member brings a specific gift or cross to bear. Julie, the youngest, shines as the star with a great voice. There’s also the diminutive and slightly embittered Cynthia, left at the altar by her boyfriend and understandably embittered. Perhaps the most difficult is Gail, the heftiest and oldest of the group, who just might have the goods to be a terrific businesswoman.

The venue for the competition is a grubby pub. The unpromising MC for the competition is the oft-wasted layabout Dave (Chris O’Dowd, unforgettable in Bridesmaids and “Girls”). A kind-hearted but desperate soul, he’s probably also on the run from a wife. Also not encouraging is that he also leaves behind a disastrous gig as an entertainment officer on a cruise ship.

But Dave knows his stuff and clearly has a passion for soul music. (“My blood runs Negro,” he tells the women.) He has a nose for talent and even knows the concertizing biz. He also knows that the country-western sounds the girls serve up won’t cut it. Dave sells them on a soul sound and they’re off.

An audition to entertain American troops in Vietnam brings these unlikely people together. As happens in these films, one key piece is missing and that is by way of the sisters’ more privileged and fair-skinned but equally talented cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), who has scurried up the social ladder far away to become a respectable, middle-class resident of Melbourne. She, of course, initially resists but is brought on board.

The girls are recruited as the haphazardly named “Sapphires” when Kay gets inspiration from Cynthia’s ring and are off to ’Nam, but not before the sisters’ mother resists sending the young Julie. But off the four go, with Dave as music director and manager. Their act is a huge hit with the troops. They confront battle, fall in love, and ultimately triumph.

Enriched by archival footage of the war and the era, The Sapphires is sometimes predictable but always holds interest. The location shooting in Vietnam is but one sign of its eagerness for authenticity in spite of a plot from an oft-sourced playbook. And the music rules—whether from the oldies bin or the very talented Sapphires.


Film Review: The Sapphires

This familiar but supremely well-told and produced tale of the unlikely rise of an Aboriginal female pop group in the Vietnam War-era is feel-good entertainment at its best. Performances, solid script and great music all hit the high notes.

March 21, 2013

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1373888-Sapphires_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires, teeming with R&B and other rock hits of the late ’60s and early ’70s, might ring too tidy and contrived to be mostly true, but audiences won’t care because the film delivers that tricky equation of smart, satisfying entertainment.

Wayne Blair directed this rollicking and rowdy delight focusing on the rise to prominence of a believable and winning all-girl quartet in the Aussie hinterlands. Discovered and groomed by a savvy but dissolute Irish music vet on the skids, the quartet goes on to make a splash entertaining the troops in Vietnam. And they bring home some of that fame and, certainly, the wisdom they learned on that faraway road.

The Weinsteins, delivering the goods, remind that their roots were in the rock scene (in Buffalo, New York). They assure that The Sapphires is wise and loving in its evocation of both the beloved sounds, an ethos of those crazy times, and the types drawn to and ascending in the often messy music scene back then.

It’s 1968, and a perfect storm of change crosses continents: a repudiation of old values and embrace of the new amidst historic assassinations and a much-maligned war. In rural Australia, three young Australian sisters—Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell)—live on a sparse farmstead, and they too long for change.

An opportunity arises when they read about a talent competition in a nearby town. As is the norm in such films (and even in real life), each group member brings a specific gift or cross to bear. Julie, the youngest, shines as the star with a great voice. There’s also the diminutive and slightly embittered Cynthia, left at the altar by her boyfriend and understandably embittered. Perhaps the most difficult is Gail, the heftiest and oldest of the group, who just might have the goods to be a terrific businesswoman.

The venue for the competition is a grubby pub. The unpromising MC for the competition is the oft-wasted layabout Dave (Chris O’Dowd, unforgettable in Bridesmaids and “Girls”). A kind-hearted but desperate soul, he’s probably also on the run from a wife. Also not encouraging is that he also leaves behind a disastrous gig as an entertainment officer on a cruise ship.

But Dave knows his stuff and clearly has a passion for soul music. (“My blood runs Negro,” he tells the women.) He has a nose for talent and even knows the concertizing biz. He also knows that the country-western sounds the girls serve up won’t cut it. Dave sells them on a soul sound and they’re off.

An audition to entertain American troops in Vietnam brings these unlikely people together. As happens in these films, one key piece is missing and that is by way of the sisters’ more privileged and fair-skinned but equally talented cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), who has scurried up the social ladder far away to become a respectable, middle-class resident of Melbourne. She, of course, initially resists but is brought on board.

The girls are recruited as the haphazardly named “Sapphires” when Kay gets inspiration from Cynthia’s ring and are off to ’Nam, but not before the sisters’ mother resists sending the young Julie. But off the four go, with Dave as music director and manager. Their act is a huge hit with the troops. They confront battle, fall in love, and ultimately triumph.

Enriched by archival footage of the war and the era, The Sapphires is sometimes predictable but always holds interest. The location shooting in Vietnam is but one sign of its eagerness for authenticity in spite of a plot from an oft-sourced playbook. And the music rules—whether from the oldies bin or the very talented Sapphires.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Bicycling with Moliere
Film Review: Bicycling with Moliere

This sly, witty, charming comedic contemporary study of a fraught friendship between two actors hoping to mount a Molière classic is also a ride through France’s beautiful Ile de Ré island. More »

Locke
Film Review: Locke

Taut, disturbing and unique drama about a man racing toward his destiny, providing Tom Hardy, literally, with a vehicle to flaunt his acting chops. More »

Small Time
Film Review: Small Time

You might not buy a used car from the guys in Small Time, but you will enjoy the movie about their exploits, even their exploitations (of others). More »

Fading Gigolo
Film Review: Fading Gigolo

Some top screen talent gets lost in the silliness surrounding the amorous adventures of an unlikely gigolo and his even more unlikely pimp, with writer/director/actor John Turturro the shtupper “ho” co-starring with Woody Allen as the mercenary shtup-enabler. Yarmulkes off to Turturro’s brave but deeply ill-conceived comedic foray into Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic community and other alien territory. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Transcendence
Film Review: Transcendence

Johnny Depp is an idealistic researcher whose consciousness is uploaded into an artificial intelligence in this slick techno-thriller with delusions of seriousness from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. More »

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here