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Sapphires, The


Stars: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell

Director: Wayne Blair

Based on real events, this is the story of three Aboriginal girls who form a singing group in the Australia of 1968. Naturally, white folk snub them - despite their glorious singing voices - but Dave (O'Dowd), an alcoholic Irish talent show emcee, takes them to Melbourne where, joined by a pass-for-white cousin, they are given a (dangerous) gig to entertain US troops in Vietnam and re-named The Sapphires.

Dave demotes the oldest, Gail (Mailman) and promotes the youngest, June (Mauboy) to lead singer and the girls are on their way, flirting with American Marines and getting more polished with each show. The tour, however, is abruptly ended when The Sapphires have to trek north without their backing band and, in spite of reaching their destination, get caught in the crossfire of a Viet-Cong raid.

The film provides breezy entertainment with lots of tap-your-feet music (after the girls are converted from country-and-western to soul) and its credits hold a few surprises: only Mauboy appears to have done her own singing, while the original Sapphires were much lighter-skinned than three of the girls here.

The darker skin colour of the trio probably does help the director make salient points about racial discrimination in Australia as well as among the American troops. Mailman, though clearly too old for her role, gives the stand-out performance as the 'momma bear' of the troupe.

David Quinlan

Australia 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment One. Colour by deluxe.
103 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 03 Nov 2012