Saturday movie review: 'The Sapphires'

My husband and I scanned Netflix streaming the other night, in search of something uplifting and fun yet unrelated to the holidays. We happened upon THE SAPPHIRES, a 2012 film I had heard great things about but that we never had the opportunity to see in theaters here in Colorado, where the mountains are high, the skies are blue... and the independent film scene is dismal. 

Thank heavens for streaming movies, for THE SAPPHIRES turned out to be one serendipitous and soulful find.

The Sapphires

The film is an Australian musical dramedy loosely based on the true story of four talented Australian Aboriginal sisters — black "undesirables" shunned by white society at the time — who in 1968, dared to hook up with an alcohol-loving talent scout and audition to take their sister act to Vietnam to entertain the American troops. Their goal: to become stars!

The singers are played by Australian actresses with unbelievable voices — Deborah Mailman (Gail), Miranda Tapsell (Cynthia), Jessica Mauboy (Julie), and Shari Sebbens (Kaye). Chris O'Dowd of BRIDESMAIDS fame (among others) cheerfully plays Dave Lovelace the scout-turned-manager who needs a break just as much as the sisters.

In addition to the soulful singing, I enjoyed the banter between O'Dowd and the ladies, especially Mailman. Equally fun was that in more than a few spots, O'Dowd proves he has mighty fine singing chops of his own.

The film isn't all singing, though. There's tension between the ladies plus tension with their wacky manager. Plus, there's a bit of romance, a bit of heartbreak, and — naturally, as it takes place amidst war — some close calls for the entertainers.

Overall, the road trip film (of a sort) made me want to dance and sing and put on some soul music once the credits were over. It also made me wish to own the soundtrack, as the gals who play The Sapphires put out unexpectedly strong and soulful sounds that rival any black female artists — solo or in a group — I've ever heard.

Speaking of credits, those were quite entertaining, as well. I love it when films based on true stories include updates in the credits on what happened to the real individuals after the time portrayed in the movie, along with actual photos and footage. THE SAPPHIRES didn't disappoint there. It didn't, in fact, disappoint in any other moment of the feel-good film, either. I found it well done and an enjoyable way to spend 104 minutes. 

As I mentioned, the gals cast as the singers can certainly sing and surely include "singer" on their resumes. Here's the scene from THE SAPPHIRES in which the newly formed group auditions for a spot entertaining the Marines in Saigon:


THE SAPPHIRES (rated PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking) is available on Blu-ray, DVD, iTunes and Netflix Streaming. Find out more on the film's official website