Directed by Wayne Blair
A group of friends form a band, bicker with each other and their manager, and endure the triumphs and humiliations of life on the road before finally making it big. If you’ve seen That Thing You Do!, Dreamgirls, or just about any episode of VH1's Behind the Music, you know the plot. But this time the setting is quite different: The Sapphires is the story (“inspired by” a real one) of three aboriginal sisters in Australia in the 1960s, when aboriginals weren’t considered Australian citizens. Sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) and Julie (Jessica Mauboy, a runner-up on Australian Idol), are singing country songs when they’re spotted by a raggedy, hard-drinking musician, Dave (Chris O’Dowd, underplaying nicely). Determined to audition for a job entertaining the troops in Vietnam, the girls are convinced by Dave to switch to soul, which he insists will go over better with American soldiers. The trio are later joined by estranged cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), who, because of her lighter skin, had been forcibly taken from her community years earlier to be raised by a white family, which was a common practice.
This is a world and culture rarely seen in movies (at least in the U.S.), and the scenes set in the girls’ native “Mission” and the contrast with their lives on the road (and the instant-growing-up that entails) provides additional drama although, incredibly, there’s little death or destruction onscreen until the end. O’Dowd and the trio of actresses, especially Mailman, who also starred in the play on which the movie’s based, are natural and believable in their roles, and their performances (both on and off stage) turn this familiar story into an appealing one.
Opens March 22