I’ve been a sucker for soul band creation tales ever since The Commitments wailed its way into my heart, so I was already predisposed to love The Sapphires. The film, by director Wayne Blair, tells the very-close-to-true story of four young Australian Aboriginal women with killer pipes and big dreams. Sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) were raised on a reserve, and grew up singing country hits together. When the sisters participate in a local talent competition and lose based on the color of their skin, down-and-out music buff Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd) makes it his mission to spruce them up and make them into the next big soul sensation.
Dave’s first order of business is to reinstate the sisters’ cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) as the fourth member of the group. Kay, who is lighter skinned than her cousins, was taken from her family as a child and raised in the city, where she passed as white. Despite this rift, the girls earn a spot entertaining soldiers fighting overseas in the Vietnam War and set off on the grand adventure of their lives. Lovers are taken, songs are belted, and tears are jerked. Though The Sapphires occurs within the atrocities of the Vietnam War and the subjugation of the Australian Aboriginal people, it’s more of a feel-good romp than anything else. With one of the real-life Sapphires’ sons co-writing the film, it is definitely a love letter to its subjects. But as far as love letters go, this one is full to bursting with spectacular soul staples and loaded with O'Dowd's inexhaustible likability. It's not a perfect piece, but it is very enjoyable and well worth a watch.
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