Inspired by real people, “The Sapphires” follows a group of Australian Aboriginal female singers and their manager, Dave Lovelace. The girls begin as closet country western singers and their first gig is at a local bar where they outperform all of the locals; the only problem is that the colour of their skin disallows any applause in the whitewashed town. The only support they receive is from a young boy who claps spiritedly before being shushed by his mother and from the always reliable, laid back MC and piano player, Dave Lovelace.
Sharing the Stage
The opening scene of “The Sapphires” is set in 1958 and is introduced over Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run through the Jungle”. This song works perfectly with the local children running through fields to get to a makeshift concert by the 10 year old Sapphires. The next scene finds three of the four girls 10 years later when they are itching to get off of their overcrowded farm and into stardom. First stop: Vietnam. The war going on at the time is definitely not underplayed, on multiple occasions the audience is made aware that the girls are indeed living in a war zone. The film is balanced between scenes of the girls performing for the troops and scenes of the harsh realities that surround them. Slowly the film becomes less about The Sapphires’ rise to stardom and more about the importance of supporting everyone that is involved in the conflict.
Because of the backdrop of the film, the story line is not predictable. You really don’t know what is going to happen next to the girls or where they are going to find themselves. What keeps you hanging on is the strong, if sometimes exaggerated, personalities of the girls. There’s the over protective mother type, the hormone filled one, the actual talent, and the dancer. The cast is very diverse and we get to see 1968 Vietnam from a variety of different angles.
I think the girls’ manager, Dave Lovelace (played by Chris O’Dowd) is really what completes “The Sapphires” as an upbeat and enjoyable film. Made more popular recently from his roles in “Bridesmaids” and “This is 40“, he adds a much needed effortless humour to his scenes. In the film he plays a perpetually relaxed guy who doesn’t really have much of an agenda of his own. This mentality is probably imperative given the group of anxious, irritable and sometimes high strung girls that he finds himself with. O’Dowd plays this role very well; it is actually completely believable that someone like Lovelace would go across the ocean with a group of girls he just met to act as their manager. Plus, the relationship he forms with the oldest girl, Gail, becomes, debatably, the sweetest part of the movie.
I don’t know if the script of “The Sapphires” would have been incredible on the page, but each actor puts a lively spin on their lines that makes you root for them and yearn to know where they will go next. I think ultimately the music is really what’s important, being a uniting force for the troops and the girls alike. Each song is absolutely absorbing to listen to and I think you’d be a very tough cookie if this soul-infused girl group didn’t have you smiling like a crazy person by the end of the movie, if not sooner. “The Sapphires” is meant to entertain, and there’s no denying that it does so very well.