Director: Wayne Blair
Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, JessicaMauboy
I'm not usually the biggest fan of Australian cinema - in fact, with the exception of the quite brilliant Animal Kingdom a couple of years ago, I can't think of another Australian film I've really loved.
The Sapphires gets damn close to that level, though. Based on a true story, though drawing more from a play based on the true story, the film is set in 1968 and tells the story of three Aboriginal sisters, and a cousin, who dream of fame and fortune as a singing group, and leave the racially-charged Australian outback behind after auditioning (and being chosen) to tour Vietnam and perform for American soldiers fighting there - all with the help of a typically drunk Irishman working as an MC at the local pub who happens to know a thing or two about soul music.
It's essentially a coming-of-age/fish-out-of-water crossover, but it works because of the interesting setting and the strength of the performances.
The late 1960s were not a pleasant time for Aboriginal people - well, I mean, there's never really been a pleasant time, but the Australia depicted here is far worse than now - and the girls' outsider status gives the audience a good reason to get behind them early on.
The scenes filmed on location in Vietnam are a delight, with the era realised in mesmerising detail by director Wayne Blair and cinematographer Warwick Thornton.
Among the cast, Deborah Mailman turns in a fantastic performance as Gail, the eldest sister - and self-appointed mother goose - of the group, while pop singer Jessica Mauboy makes up for a noticeable lack of on-screen charisma with a stellar singing voice.
But the star is Chris O'Dowd, who is going from strength to strength as a performer. Tonally, The Sapphires lands somewhere between comedy, musical and drama; O'Dowd gets plenty of opportunity to impress in all three disciplines - and if you didn't know before, thanks to hit movie Bridesmaids or shows The IT Crowd and Moone Boy, his is a star on the rise.
Despite the quality of the film, the blu-ray package is pretty unremarkable - picture and sound quality is as good as one would expect from a film produced so recently, and doesn't disappoint in any way.
The selection of extras - including an excellent interview with the original Sapphires, on whom the movie is based - are great too.
The Sapphires is an excellent film, a perfect feel-good movie for that Sunday night in. Recommended.
Bonus Features: Making Of featurette, Vietnam featurette, Character Profiles, Music Videos, Interview with The Original Sapphires
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