Monday, March 18, 2013

“The Sapphires” – Movie Review



This weekend in my movie class, we had a bonus screening of the Australian comedy-drama “The Sapphires”, starring Chris O’Dowd. 



When a group of Aborigine sisters decide to form a singing act, they’re discovered by a failed musician who offers to become their manager – but after they pass an audition to tour Vietnam in order to entertain the troops, will they survive so they can pursue their career at home?



In 1968 Australia, Aborigines – the people indigenous to the area – are still being treated as second class citizens.  Open racism is encouraged by not being discouraged and light-skinned Aborigine children are being seized by government officials so they can be turned over to non-Aborigine families who will raise them and teach them “white ways”; these youths would eventually come to be known as The Stolen Generation.  Amidst all of this tumult, a family of Aborigine sisters decide to seek their fortune as a singing group performing American Country-Western tunes. 

While competing at a talent contest, the young women catch the eye of Dave (O’Dowd), the Master Of Ceremonies.  Despite the negative reaction of the bigoted white audience, Dave realizes that these girls are the only true talents among the competitors.  When he learns of their ambition to pursue a career as professional singers, he offers to become their manager, which they reluctantly accept.  Deciding that they must switch their repertoire to soul music, he is able to market them as an all-girl singing group called The Sapphires, an Australian version of The Supremes. 

Getting an opportunity to audition for a visiting contingent from the United States military, they are tendered an offer to perform for the fighting men in Vietnam – their first paid professional gig.  Disregarding the danger of their assignment, the young women head for southeast Asia to commence chasing their dream, joined by their manager, Dave.  But the unanticipated intensity of the situation puts enormous stress on the young women, resulting in a great many internecine battles.  During an attack by the Vietcong, can Dave and the girls survive in order to return home to continue their professional career?



The motion picture version of “The Sapphires” is based on a stage play, which in turn was inspired by true events.  Based on the lecture from our instructor, this movie was a big hit in Australia and won many awards – understandable, because it is one of those warm and fuzzy feel-good type of stories.  Being loosely based on real-life people, this is one of those films that includes an epilogue at its conclusion, informing the audience of the subsequent events after the big adventure featured in this flick. 

While the overwhelming majority of the class – including and especially our instructor --  seemed to enjoy the movie quite a good deal, I couldn’t really share in their enthusiasm.  For me, “The Sapphires” collapses under the oppressive weight of its own interminable cuteness.  Being relentlessly adorable eventually takes its toll on one’s nerves and despite the fact that the film is under two hours, I grew increasingly impatient with the cutesy-pie failed attempts at romance between some of the characters. 

On a positive note, there are a number of good performances in “The Sapphires”, especially when you consider the fact that a number of the lead characters had not acted before; again, according to our instructor, the movie supposedly took a long time to cast because the filmmakers were looking for people that did not have an extensive acting résumé, yet had enough innate ability to carry off the roles.  Chris O’Dowd, of course, was quite good and really seemed to serve as an anchor to the rest of the cast. 


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