Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Sapphires (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Sapphires

"The Sapphires" is inspired by a true story of four indigenous girls and how they achieved their moment of notoriety as a singing group in the manner of The Supremes. The story is adapted  from a play of the same name written by Tony Briggs, the son of one of the real-life singers. The film version directed by Wayne Blair is charming with terrific music and even the camera swings and tilts with a jubilance.

A shifty but likable drifter, Dave Lovelace (Chris O' Dowd, from many Judd Apatow features) is the MC of a second rate Australian  talent show circa 1967. One day during a hangover, he happens upon three girls: Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell). Under no welcoming applause they take the stage without fanfare and sing country western tunes. A few  patrons leave, uttering racial epithets, but most stay while being entertained. Dave is impressed, but doesn't wish to make waves, while the girls sense a break. Acting with spontaneity, they find an ad seeking singers to entertain troops in Vietnam. Smitten by the trio's voluptual spirit, Dave agrees to help and somehow scores an audition.

Most of the spark comes from the three girls' interaction with Chris O' Dowd as the well meaning but glib goof with little dance rhythm, but lots of enthusiasm. The film also has heart and energy in showing the group as it struggles to form as a Motown style soul group by enlisting the help of their estranged sister, Kay (Shari Sebbons) who ignores her aborigine roots. In addition to the music (which is the centerpiece, but no less meaningful for it) the film also illustrates the blight of colonialism and its resulting racism.

"The Sapphires" is a true ensemble film. The four actresses all share a distinct and separate chemistry with each other with an easy engaging  momentum that never veers into total bubblegum melodrama. Given the subject matter with many musical films that do, this is to be commended. Not one portrayal is hokey or false and each actress has a voluptuous charisma that will spiral in your eyes creating helixes of desire. You might even jump.

Just as in the film "42",  it is performance and self expression, here embodied by music, that ultimately brings us together in a lasso of sound.

"The Sapphires" is unapologetically "Feel-good" in the tradition of  so many, but the action has such a chirpy irreverence with a carbonated score that will have you fizzing in your seat.

Write Ian at

No comments: