Music is the well-earned main attraction in The Sapphires, a Based On A True Story that only once or twice bursts into unnatural Glee-like numbers. Elsewhere in Wayne Blair’s well-crafted yet predictable crowd-pleaser, singing is the heartfelt tie that binds Aboriginal Australian sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) and their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), eventually landing them a gig entertaining American G.I.s in 1968 Vietnam. Under the eponymous gemstone name, the four belt out soul covers to large crowds perhaps a bit too comfortably, though there’s nonetheless an energy and joy in these performances that, for the most part, resists scrutiny.
Like any good comedy with more on its mind than simple jokes, The Sapphires works its way into serious subjects through humor. Later on, when racism against Aboriginals and the horrors of Vietnam are broached, the lighthearted groundwork encourages a connection to the material with more appeal than mere gut-punch drama. Key to this mature approach is Chris O’Dowd, one of the finest comedic actors working today and an absolute delight as the group’s manager Dave Lovelace. His stabs at their country/western roots (“We all make mistakes”) and other asides land with expert timing, yet the ladies’ reactions to his sayings or doings are often just as effective. Along with tasteful use of late-‘60s archival footage and a finale that wells with hard earned emotion, the film is that rare release with something for nearly everyone and deserves to be enjoyed be precisely that audience.
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking.
The Sapphires is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.