Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: March 22, 2013 Released by: The Weinstein Company
Wayne Blair's The Sapphires, inspired by actual events in the late 1960s, might be considered an Aboriginal version of a picture like Sparkle with Vietnam besides racial issues in the mix. The result is a delightfully soulful crowd pleaser with music that would probably inspire the late Whitney Houston, as well as her many talented admirers, like Jordin Sparks.
The balance of comedy and melodrama is bolstered by the presence of Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids, Pirate Radio) as Dave getting drunk and looking for new vibrant voices Down Under in its more remote sections. Finding ostracized sisters (known as the Cummeraganja Songbirds known for their country crooning) Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and the contentious Gail (Deborah Mailman), along with, later, Kay (Shari Sebbens) turns out to be a godsend to sing for the military in the newly titular location.
How the filmmaking navigates through a contrived, maudlin storyline stretches the continents to underline the social and political tensions. O'Dowd is easily able to engage from a bedraggled character helping his eager charges to cross over, and the ladies, especially Mailman, are effective in bringing personalities to their roles, as a little romance is realistically interspersed within the more serious escalating activities.
Scribes Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson help to match a refined period production with full-on show-stopping numbers by not flinching away from more of what takes on a more topical, timely quality. The staging of the music, in sync with the comedic stream of underlying stories and characters helps to shine with some notably emotional returns, bright and toe-tapping all the way to the end.