It might be “the Australian version of The Supremes” (with Laser Quest), but HANNAH QUINN still left The Sapphires feeling pretty, pretty, pretty good.
According to the trailer, The Sapphires is “the feel-good movie of the year”.
I’ll admit, when I heard this, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy: in my experience the feel-good genre tends to be cheesy, mawkish and generally makes me feel, well, anything but good. But I was pleasantly surprised. While The Sapphires does have its cheesy mawkish moments (spontaneous outbursts of perfectly harmonised song come to mind) it largely lived up to its billing.
The film (based on a true story) follows The Sapphires – a group of four Australian Aboriginal girls in 1968 – as they go to Vietnam to sing for the US troops and, along the way, conduct various love affairs, encounter a whole load of racism and end up in the middle of a warzone. Basically, they’re the Australian version of The Supremes. What more could you ask for?
The highlight of the film is of course the singing and, as the group tour around Vietnam, we get to see some brilliant costumes and great dancing too. It’s all a lot of fun – but it has an emotional heart too as it explores the themes of love and friendship, as well as tackling the problems Aboriginal people faced in the 60s in a way that manages not to be too heavy handed.
Acting-wise, there’s a brilliant turn here from Chris O’Dowd as the band’s manager, drunken-Irishman-with-a-heart-of-gold Dave Lovelace who, as you might expect, gets most of the best lines and delivers them with panache. The acting from the four girls, while occasionally a little wobbly, is convincing and all the characters are likeable despite their flaws. They all have great chemistry too – the scenes with Gail (Deborah Mailman) and Dave in particular are a joy to watch.
That isn’t to say the film was perfect. Indeed, far from it. Voice-overs, for example, are nearly always naff and the serious bits weren’t handled very well. The war scenes resembled Laser Quest more than anything else and the war itself was reduced to a minor plot point. That would be fine – it’s a film about soul music, not the horrors of war – but the balance between the two doesn’t feel quite right for a film that is, after all, set in a war zone. To the actors’ credit, though, none of this drew away from the emotional impact of the film. I’ll even admit that I had a tear in my eye at more than one point.
The Sapphires is at its best when it focuses on some really great singing. That, combined with some really funny one-liners, great characters and a euphoric ending makes this a film I heartily recommend.
I think it might just be safe to admit that it really could be the feel-good film of the year.