‘The Sapphires’ is the sort of movie writing itself. Featuring an abundance of singing, dancing, drama and humour, it isn’t something that would tax the most ardent of script-writer. Like ‘Dreamgirls’ and others the trick is to make such material seem fresh. Adapted from a stage play ‘The Sapphires’ has some moments of inspiration amongst the showbiz tinsel and glitter even if one knows what to expect.
Four girls living in an Aboriginal mission in 1968, including Gail (Deborah Mailman) and Julie (Jessica Mauboy), dream of becoming stars. Talented singers their big break arrives when discovered by talent scout Dave (Chris O’Dowd) who names them ‘The Sapphires’. Becoming part of an entertainment troupe during the Vietnam War, they quickly learn the ropes of an often unforgiving industry. Dealing with love, loss and conflict, the emotions they endure rival the words they sing.
Formulaic and predictable as such ‘feel-good’ films usually are it may seem ‘The Sapphires’ has nothing going for it. Occasionally it has with the search for identity and place in society providing its main interest. This is most notable in the early sequences as the ladies attempt to form a cohesive unit. Their assertiveness in standing up to racism and forging new paths are elements the cast work well with.
The scenes in Vietnam are also engaging with the horror they face changing them. This drives home the odd blending of their rendition of love-lorn songs in a war-torn country. Without these moments ‘The Sapphires’ would be just another run of the mill enterprise. It is disappointing local commercial cinema isn’t more adventurous although there’s no doubt the crowds will flock to see this until the next similar effort arrives.
Those liking bland pre-packaged movies may enjoy ‘The Sapphires’. Despite the dazzling local scenery the screenplay fizzles to a less than stunning climax with its edge lost amongst the costume’s glittering facades.
Rating out of 10: 5