Judging from the trailers and movie posters, The Sapphires seems like a movie you’ve already seen, and to a large extend you already have. Nevertheless, this Australia meets Motown musical is thoroughly upbeat and enjoyable. Move over Dreamgirls, this true life story, based on the lives of an all-girl aboriginal group of sisters shepherded by a drunken Irishman who find fame in Vietnam in 1968, has enough feel-good charm and sparkle to get you humming ‘60s R&B hits long after a screening. It’s as infectious, fun and uncomplicated as the great soundtrack that runs throughout the 90 minute timeline.
Set against the Australian outback, sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) are like three humming birds singing together since childhood. They get the attention of a Dave Lovelace (Chris O’ Dowd of IT Crowd fame), a drunken musician and promoter, who is judging a local talent show. Despite losing the competition, due to racist beliefs of the town people, the three are persuaded by Dave to become an R&B group. Soon they are off to Vietnam, performing to US soldiers and traveling to dangerous territory. Along the way they also face other obstacles, like complicated love triangles, jealousy and heartbreak.
Say what you like about the thin predictable story, but the singing is nothing short of amazing. The four women croon their way through familiar hits like Land of a Thousand Dances, I Heard It through the Grapevine, Who’s Loving You and Yellow Bird with ease. Jessica Mauboy, a graduate of Australian Idol, is an incredibly talented performer who takes the lead and shows off her singing and acting chops, but it’s Deborah Mailman who steals the show. Mailman’s feisty character and her chemistry with Chris O’ Dowd is the highlight of the film.
I dare anyone not to tap or sing along.