The Sapphires (2012)

The Sapphires
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Mild violence, themes, coarse language and sexual references

Director: Wayne Blair
Actors: Chris O'dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell

The Sapphires is an inspirational tale set in the heady days of the late '60s about a quartet of young, talented singers from a remote Aboriginal mission, discovered and guided by a kind-hearted, soul-loving manager. Plucked from obscurity, the four spirited women with powerhouse voices - called The Sapphires - are given the opportunity to entertain American troops in Vietnam. Catapulted onto the world stage as Australia's answer to the Supremes, their journey of discovery offers them not only the chance to show off their musical skills, but find love and togetherness, experience loss and grow as women.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 103mins
Origin: AUSTRALIA
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Audio Formats: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
Songbirds keep singing
by Simon Miraudo,

Sixties-set The Sapphires is a jukebox musical in every sense of the word; all the hits, none of the deep cuts. It makes a point to touch on the most salient aspects of the era, without delving into any of them in a satisfying way. Sure, Wayne Blair's film offers glimpses of the turmoil in Vietnam, occasionally demonstrates the racism towards Indigenous Australians and African Americans, alludes to the stolen generation, and preaches the healing power of soul music, but it's not really about any of those things. It's not really about anything. Thankfully, the wonderful performances convince us - at least while we're watching the thing - that a Best Of package, though often lacking in substance, can still be a whole lot of fun. The relentlessly dependable Deborah Mailman offers the best tu...

Sixties-set The Sapphires is a jukebox musical in every sense of the word; all the hits, none of the deep cuts. It makes a point to touch on the most salient aspects of the era, without delving into any of them in a satisfying way. Sure, Wayne Blair's film offers glimpses of the turmoil in Vietnam, occasionally demonstrates the racism towards Indigenous Australians and African Americans, alludes to the stolen generation, and preaches the healing power of soul music, but it's not really about any of those things. It's not really about anything. Thankfully, the wonderful performances convince us - at least while we're watching the thing - that a Best Of package, though often lacking in substance, can still be a whole lot of fun.

The relentlessly dependable Deborah Mailman offers the best turn of the bunch as Gail, the brusque lead singer of all-Aboriginal girl group The Cummeragunja Songbirds, supported by sisters Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) and Julie (Jessica Mauboy). The trio tires of losing talent competitions held at predominantly white pubs, and are tempted by the promise of a $30 weekly salary to perform for soldiers at war in Vietnam. The Songbirds catch the eye of drunken Irish expat and keyboardist Dave (the ascendant Chris O'Dowd), who secures an audition for the gig, and schools them in the ways of R&B (in the place of their preferred "country and western shite"). Despite what Schoolhouse Rock may have told you, four is the magic number, and so the young ladies recruit their fair-skinned, city-living cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) and take their quartet over to Saigon. But a name like 'The Cummeragunja Songbirds' won't fly there. In a move that barely registers on the 'Compromises Made by Motown Singers' scale, they re-christen themselves 'The Sapphires' and get set for superstardom.

The picture has been adapted from Tony Briggs' much loved stage-play of the same name, based on real relatives who similarly took their act to Southeast Asia. From all reports, it similarly eschews the issues in favour of rollicking tunes and shimmering, sequined outfits. And, in the big screen adaptation, these remain the raison d'être. Blair's direction is slick, and the final sequence offers some lasting imagery in the form of a glossy sing-along atop a flat-bed truck by the side of a glistening river (shot by Warwick Thornton). Mauboy and Mailman command the stage, though the former is given curiously little to do elsewhere, despite her character having left a baby behind at the Cummeragunja mission. O'Dowd draws from his seemingly infinite well of charm as the roguish drunkard Dave, who practically wills the movie into watchability with his manic charisma.

The Sapphires should not have to totally bear the responsibility of addressing at length the black-and-white divide that, sadly, is still evident in Australia today. In actuality, local flicks that are predominantly made to proselytise can often be just as reductive. Blair's feature is allowed to simply concern a group of small-town girls who head into a warzone and bring comfort to frightened young men far from home. However, we rarely see them bring any comfort to the soldiers (besides the few that act as romantic foils), and if that can't be conveyed effectively when everything else is being skimmed over, what's left for us to take away? Just great songs and some dancing? OK, that'll probably do.

3/5

Check out Simon's other reviews here.

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Member Reviews (114)

Cammo
says
Enjoyable, light-hearted movie. A good watch. ........
Posted Friday, 4 July 2014 See my other reviews
Steve
says
Great movie. All it needed was that mork and mindy guy and it would have collected oscars like good morning Vietnam. But alas, as it is an Australian movie, it gets no overseas traction.
Posted Monday, 19 May 2014 See my other reviews
Brilliant movie, loved it!!!
Posted Wednesday, 14 May 2014 See my other reviews
Geoff@gol
says
Enjoyable light movie, good music, Characters very shallow, some of the acting average. Based on a true story
Posted Friday, 9 May 2014 See my other reviews
Steeley
says
Brilliant!!
Posted Wednesday, 5 March 2014 See my other reviews
Whats not to love - great story, great music, great cast.
Posted Saturday, 1 March 2014 See my other reviews
Helen
says
Gorgeous film, you will laugh and cry in this, and the music is great. This is so well done and achieves quite a message. Do not miss this wonderful story.
Posted Wednesday, 26 February 2014 See my other reviews
Good movie. Very enjoyable.
Posted Wednesday, 19 February 2014 See my other reviews
Jessica Mauboy and Deborah Mailman are excellent.
Posted Sunday, 16 February 2014 See my other reviews
The Irish guy is terrible
Posted Saturday, 8 February 2014 See my other reviews
Loved it! Only disappointment was that it's quite a short film. Give me more!
Posted Friday, 31 January 2014 See my other reviews
Disappointing. People polished up so much they aren't really credible as characters. Shallower than it needs to be.
Posted Friday, 31 January 2014 See my other reviews
Loved it!
Posted Sunday, 26 January 2014 See my other reviews
Worth a watch.
Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 See my other reviews
Sue
says
loved it!
Posted Saturday, 18 January 2014 See my other reviews
Lynnieb
says
Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Great music and costumes. Jessica Mauboy is a shining star in this. Highly recommend.
Posted Sunday, 29 December 2013 See my other reviews
uncster
says
This is an awesome Australian movie, true story and all, about an Aboriginal all-girl group who go to Vietnam to entertain the US troops.
Posted Wednesday, 11 December 2013 See my other reviews
Very enjoyable. Great to see these actors careers have continued into some good drama
Posted Saturday, 7 December 2013 See my other reviews
Enjoyed it ... it was a good movie but had a typical outcome but still really enjoyed it.
Posted Tuesday, 26 November 2013 See my other reviews
garrett
says
good movie, with good acting and music. Worth a look
Posted Monday, 25 November 2013 See my other reviews
It was ok
Posted Wednesday, 20 November 2013 See my other reviews
JDR
says
FOUR STARS
Posted Tuesday, 19 November 2013 See my other reviews
A bit slow at the start but very good movie.
Posted Tuesday, 12 November 2013 See my other reviews
Entertaining movie and an interesting slant on inner politics of indigenous culture brought about by the heavy hand of imperious government domination. Mainly though it is a lovely tale with music and romance.
Posted Friday, 1 November 2013 See my other reviews
a good movie andgood music
Posted Thursday, 31 October 2013 See my other reviews
Not as good as what people are saying. Music is great but acting a little weak. Some of the romance falls a little short on believability.
Posted Saturday, 12 October 2013 See my other reviews
Kristina
says
Wonderful movie. Brilliant acting and all based on a true story. It pulled at my heart strings to see how these young women were treated in those days and how they overcame any adversity to reach their goals.
Posted Friday, 11 October 2013 See my other reviews
Both my wife and i enjoyed this movie which is rare because we have quite different tastes in flicks usually :)
Posted Saturday, 5 October 2013 See my other reviews
Mark
says
A very good movie. Light watching and toe tapping enjoyment
Posted Wednesday, 2 October 2013 See my other reviews
Kathy
says
Great movie, enjoyed the singing, also for a Australian not too bad
Posted Tuesday, 1 October 2013 See my other reviews
Hayesy
says
I thought this movie was a really great. I enjoyed it alot.
Posted Sunday, 29 September 2013 See my other reviews
Posted Thursday, 26 September 2013 See my other reviews
Jill
says
Great movie - this is the first time I have heard of them. The slang and accent made me cringe, but that aside I enjoyed it.
Posted Saturday, 21 September 2013 See my other reviews
I didn't have great expectations but I loved it. It was fun, entertaining, some funny bits and a sweet love story. And finally a story about an Aboriginal family that doesn't fall back on stereotypes! A good movie.
Posted Tuesday, 17 September 2013 See my other reviews
heather Harper
says
Interesting to look back to the much misunderstood Vietnam War, I don't remember The Sappires but is a veery plausabledepiction of the time. There are several good songs beautifully sung,
Posted Saturday, 31 August 2013 See my other reviews
Emma
says
Why is it when an Australian movie is made they have to throw in words like ''drongo'' every chance they get!! Makes us sound like outback hicks! Apart from that, this wasn't too bad
Posted Friday, 30 August 2013 See my other reviews
CL-D
says
I thought only the Yanks put out pap like this. You can't take it seriously. The music is good but goes know where, at bit like the movie and is based very, very, loosely on fact. O'Dowd is good but the whole thing tries too hard to cover too many things and ultimately doesn't succeed in covering anything of substance. Maybe the real story would have been more interesting.
Posted Friday, 26 July 2013 See my other reviews
sue
says
The singing is amazing, and the story is good.
Posted Wednesday, 3 July 2013 See my other reviews
Heather
says
The first Australian movie I have absolutely loved. Worth watching.
Posted Saturday, 22 June 2013 See my other reviews
Helly Belly
says
Very enjoyable film, Chris O'Dowd is great in this.
Posted Friday, 21 June 2013 See my other reviews
AJ
says
A bit half-baked with not-so-good acting, poor dialogue at times and a very predictable plot-line. Chris O'Dowd saved it from being a total write-off. Mauboy's singing voice was not my cup of tea but the songs were great although they weren't sung in true 60s style. The language and slang used was certainly too modern to be 1960s. Disappointing.
Posted Tuesday, 18 June 2013 See my other reviews
Adam
says
Beaut story ,great music, well acted.
Posted Tuesday, 18 June 2013 See my other reviews
obeone
says
bit of a yawn sorry
Posted Saturday, 15 June 2013 See my other reviews
Sccoby
says
Best feel good aussie movie have seen in a while
Posted Wednesday, 12 June 2013 See my other reviews
Mary
says
Another feel good movie. A nice touch at the end with the pictures of the 4 girls (as they now are). Would recommend especially since my husband liked it as well.
Posted Tuesday, 4 June 2013 See my other reviews
Andrew
says
I was a bit underwhelmed by this. Seemed an excuse for the singing talents of Jess Mauboy et al, and while she can sing, there's not a lot else to help lift this movie. The underlying issues of racism and the Vietnam war are glossed over as backdrop material only.
Posted Sunday, 2 June 2013 See my other reviews
Marg F
says
This film is one of the best I have seen. Well made , well paced , the music is fun the girls fantastic. Their manager equally good. Gets 5 stars from me.
Posted Sunday, 2 June 2013 See my other reviews
Jen
says
Really enjoyable film I'd definitely watch it again
Posted Friday, 31 May 2013 See my other reviews
Loved this movie. Far more realistic version of that era than anything I have seen so far. Great performances by all. Great music.
Posted Tuesday, 28 May 2013 See my other reviews
So, so movie for me but enormously popular with the wife, and her friends apparently, suggesting maybe a "chick flick" genre. Albeit the music is far removed from the indigenous norm, it is well performed and gets fingers tapping and the backside moving. The storyline was a bit jumpy but overall the production gets a pass mark from this reviewer. A movie to be recommended to all.
Posted Monday, 27 May 2013 See my other reviews
Eleanor
says
I have waited and waited to see this movie. As a fan of Deborah Mailman I had double the anticipation. I was not let down anywhere. I loved it and even had hardboiled me shedding a tear towards the end. Great performances by everyone. Congrats to the Director - please keep giving us your best.
Posted Thursday, 23 May 2013 See my other reviews
pm
says
great aussie flick give it a go
Posted Wednesday, 22 May 2013 See my other reviews
\Wendy
says
great, but disc faulty and cannot find another way to tell you. Icould not view the final scene.
Posted Monday, 20 May 2013 See my other reviews
Nigel W
says
Four aboriginal female singers get a manager and soul and take a tour of Vietnam during the war. An enjoyable movie that is let down a little by its clunky script. 3.5 stars
Posted Monday, 20 May 2013 See my other reviews
Purplesue
says
The singing & the songs were definitely the highlights of this movie! Good acting from everyone, but for me there just seemed like something was lacking.
Posted Sunday, 19 May 2013 See my other reviews
MN
says
Really enjoyable movie... Shari Sebbens (Kay) is beautiful and surely a massive up & coming star, I think took the limelight from Debra Mailman. Wonderful singing by Jessica Mauboy.
Posted Friday, 17 May 2013 See my other reviews
paula
says
fantastic film suitable for whole family
Posted Friday, 17 May 2013 See my other reviews
Sherree
says
Absolutely brilliant ... beautiful story. Jessica Mauboy was amazing, no actually all of the ladies and gentleman were brilliant!! :-)
Posted Wednesday, 15 May 2013 See my other reviews
Toni
says
Thoroughly enjoyed this, well worth watching again.
Posted Thursday, 9 May 2013 See my other reviews
renata
says
get it!
Posted Tuesday, 7 May 2013 See my other reviews
I really wanted to love it but still felt it was an Australian movie written through the eyes of an American. Come on, surely it isn't hard to be an authentic Aussie on the big screen.
Posted Tuesday, 7 May 2013 See my other reviews
JeffK
says
‘The Sapphires’ is a very enjoyable movie. Based on a true story, it takes an unapologetic emotional journey from ‘the bush’ to Vietnam following the fortunes of three wonderful indigenous singers. The performances are excellent, as is the script but it is the directing that has to be acknowledged. Wayne Blair never lets the film slip into sentimentality and reminds us of the attitude(s) that existed between black and white Australia during the 1950’s and 1960’s without getting too heavy about it; nor does he cover up shameful practices. 'The Sapphires' is essentially a comedy but it is more than that, this is a movie with real heart.
Posted Tuesday, 7 May 2013 See my other reviews
Autumn Sadie
says
WOW! Beautiful film, great music and nice to see the aboriginal/ black historical events get some air-time and love. 5 stars.
Posted Saturday, 4 May 2013 See my other reviews
loved it... excellent aussie movie. positive and a classic
Posted Thursday, 2 May 2013 See my other reviews
Michele
says
An enjoyable film although there could have been more to the story line.
Posted Saturday, 27 April 2013 See my other reviews
McLovin
says
Great Aussie film, lots of fun and some "thinking moments" too. Well done everyone.
Posted Friday, 26 April 2013 See my other reviews
Louise
says
Great movie, loved it. This will lift the spirits of all Aboriginal people and help change perceptions held by white Australians. I watched it 3 times.
Posted Friday, 26 April 2013 See my other reviews
Jannine
says
Fun Australian film, with the usual formula for Australian film of this kind. the acting was good, but it wasn't anything exceptional. That said, it was very enjoyable with some great music!
Posted Thursday, 4 April 2013 See my other reviews
D.M.
says
I really wanted to like this movie, especially through being a fan and admirer of the talent of Jessica Mauboy, however I was disappointed. I thought that it would have a similar calibre to "Red Dog", but I found the movie trying too hard, and thus self-conscious. One good thing that I appreciated was that all four of the girls were featured on equal footing, not just Mauboy in the spotlight, and I also liked the biopic content regarding the circumstances around the people of the community that the girls were a part of. This film had all the ingredients for something really, really good, but fell short in my opinion. It's still worth watching though.
Posted Friday, 29 March 2013 See my other reviews
Noel
says
Very good Australian movie. I have to disagree with "Robert" below - If you removed the singing bits there would not be a movie to shorten - The singing and performing IS THE STORY the rest is just padding to give meaning to the singing.
Posted Monday, 25 March 2013 See my other reviews
CC
says
A better-than-average feel-good story, and yes, it's Australian, but it's let down by one-dimensional characters, some pretty average acting, and a storyline with no surprises. Chris O'Dowd is the star of the show, and Jessica Mauboy has clearly got a good set of pipes.
Posted Thursday, 21 March 2013 See my other reviews
Sandy
says
Excellent movie and a must see for everyone.
Posted Wednesday, 20 March 2013 See my other reviews
Enello
says
Fantastic movie - great story, great songs, excellent cast. WHat's not to love?
Posted Wednesday, 20 March 2013 See my other reviews
Johno
says
Outstanding a great Aussie flick and got everything about the period right also if you grew up in the 60's who can forget the music, absolutely loved it.
Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 See my other reviews
Cindy
says
I'm with Robert - this is competently made but oh-so-predictable.
Posted Friday, 15 March 2013 See my other reviews
Robert
says
Just a bit too slick for me. But it is easy to see why it is so popular. If you removed the "singing" scenes then the movie would be reduced in time by about a third.
Posted Thursday, 14 March 2013 See my other reviews
This movie is just terrific. I love the music, I love the actors, I love the humour! I never watch a movie more than twice. This one I have seen 6 times in a short space of time.
Posted Tuesday, 12 March 2013 See my other reviews
TJ
says
Love a story based on reality, but this did not live up to the hype for me. Just a good average feel good kind of movie in my opinion.
Posted Tuesday, 12 March 2013 See my other reviews
Karen H
says
I've only seen three good movies this year (on DVD) and they are The Sapphires, Incendies and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Seriously Hollywood has lost the plot!
Posted Thursday, 7 March 2013 See my other reviews
Ann E.
says
Absolutely loved every second. Well made, good acting and a great story. You can't help but sing along with the wonderful songs, entertaining and very highly recommended for great viewing. This one ticks all the boxes.
Posted Thursday, 7 March 2013 See my other reviews
Very, very beautiful movie. A recommended must see. Absolutely a beautiful movie.
Posted Wednesday, 6 March 2013 See my other reviews
M & T
says
Good Aussie movie, should be more made here rather then so much from USA
Posted Wednesday, 27 February 2013 See my other reviews
Sharon
says
Very enjoyable. Great to watch a piece of our history particularly when it's a positive story about our indigenous people.
Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 See my other reviews
loved it
Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 See my other reviews
kimbo
says
The Sapphires is about four Aboriginal girls who get a chance at the end of the Sixties to go entertain the troops as a singing group in Vietnam. The film is one of those sneaky ones - not brilliantly made, or brilliantly acted - but it really does entertain - and isn't that the point? Full of great soul music, some good laughs, some nods towards the Rights struggle, The Sapphires is above all big hearted and is always refreshingly straight forward about its objectives. It is, however, a huge plus in that it does have a positive message and a wonderfully different take from the usual patronising view of Aboriginal life. If you like music movies like The Commitments you will enjoy this
Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 See my other reviews
hb_douglas
says
Tremendously enjoyable ride with some interesting background along the way.
Posted Friday, 15 February 2013 See my other reviews
Johnson
says
Wonderful feel-good flick. Chris O'dowd is a revelation (where has this guy been?) but the rest of the cast occassionally struggles with the right level of emotion (tone it down a bit girls). If they'd spent a bit more time buffing the performances this could have been extraordinary.
Posted Friday, 15 February 2013 See my other reviews
Cathie Powell
says
Great movie, really enjoyed it. A feel good movie. Thankyou
Posted Wednesday, 13 February 2013 See my other reviews
Maria S
says
What a fabulous feel good movie. Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy are exceptional.
Posted Wednesday, 13 February 2013 See my other reviews
Len
says
A really good Australian movie, celebrating the success of The Sapphires from their early days through to their performances for the armed fores in Vietnam. Well written and well acted.
Posted Tuesday, 12 February 2013 See my other reviews
Jamkart
says
Thoroughly enjoy this movie, it was well done and love Deb Mailman
Posted Saturday, 9 February 2013 See my other reviews
Absolutely loved this movie.Well worth watching more than once!!
Posted Thursday, 7 February 2013 See my other reviews
Emily
says
Awesome movie! Met all the expectations of a good movie running the gamut of emotions. Highly reccomended!
Posted Tuesday, 29 January 2013 See my other reviews
Lee
says
Very nice movie.
Posted Sunday, 20 January 2013 See my other reviews
Excellent movie, really enjoyed. How good are those girls!!!
Posted Friday, 18 January 2013 See my other reviews
Moi
says
What a great movie! Although I find some of it a bit hard to swallow, and I wonder how much of it is actually true, the story is very powerful and moving while also being very entertaining.
Posted Friday, 18 January 2013 See my other reviews
very good . enjoyed it .
Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 See my other reviews
Larry
says
If you have ever lived in Dubbo or Moree you would know how realistic this Movie is, it is so incredibly accurate it is not funny. Loved the singing.
Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 See my other reviews
Margit
says
Great movie, based on true events, what a great Australian move!
Posted Monday, 14 January 2013 See my other reviews
Best Australian movie so far
Posted Saturday, 12 January 2013 See my other reviews
ChrisR
says
I reallly loved this "feel good" movie - one that you could watch again and again. Enjoyed the music and the humour - recommend this one
Posted Wednesday, 9 January 2013 See my other reviews
Otto
says
Brilliant movie. Great story, great soundtrack. One of the best Australian movies I have seen.
Posted Friday, 4 January 2013 See my other reviews
Jean
says
I loved this movie, great music and quite funny in parts.
Posted Thursday, 3 January 2013 See my other reviews
My wife and I enjoyed this movie very much. Very funny as you don't know what to expect next.
Posted Thursday, 3 January 2013 See my other reviews
Kim
says
Really enjoyed this movie but did find it a bit predictable at times. Did find it a bit overacted at times.
Posted Monday, 31 December 2012 See my other reviews
Loved it, highly recommended.
Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 See my other reviews
lozi
says
My husband and I both really enjoyed this movie. I could of actually watched it for a lot longer !
Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 See my other reviews
light story. Great music Great singer
Posted Monday, 17 December 2012 See my other reviews
great family movie, love the music, worth watching.
Posted Friday, 14 December 2012 See my other reviews
sybil
says
Four aboriginal women who go to Vietnam to service the American troops. The also sang. Reverse racism at it's best.
Posted Tuesday, 11 December 2012 See my other reviews
Shaq
says
I liked the movie however the story was kinda random and all over the place. Would of been better with a improved story line
Posted Saturday, 8 December 2012 See my other reviews
I loved the music in this movie, soul music. Good actors. Nice one.
Posted Saturday, 1 September 2012 See my other reviews
Bavin
says
Feel good movie that avoids being overly sentimental. There are serious themes of racism and stolen children, but we see the characters rise above these setbacks. There's good performances from the cast, some danger from the Vietnam War, conflict within the group, and lots of great songs. The characters are a bit one-dimensional, but that is all that stops this wonderful film from getting 5 stars.
Posted Sunday, 19 August 2012 See my other reviews
Bron
says
Saw an advanced preview and LOVED IT! An amazing feel-good movie that will make you laugh (humour dripping with sarcasm), make you cry (drama and romance), make you want to dance (great music and those girls can sing), and Jess Mauboy's voice is AMAZING, I get tingles down my spine when she sings! I'm not a big fan of Aussie movies - I find the characters are often over the top - but I loved this one and would happily watch it again, something I don't do often.
Posted Wednesday, 8 August 2012 See my other reviews
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