Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Sapphires

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements, and smoking
Profanity:Strong language
Nudity/Sex:Sexual references
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, smoking
Violence/Scariness:War violence
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:March 22, 2013
DVD Release Date:August 15, 2013

A very conventional story of a 60′s Australian girl group gains extra power from its context and setting in this fact-based story set to the beat of Motown soul.  Co-written by the son of one of the real-life singers and directed by Wayne Blair, who starred in the play based on their story, “The Sapphires” is clearly a labor of love for all involved and a touching tribute to four women for whom success as performers was just the beginning.

Before it begins, we learn two stark, devastating facts.  Until 1967, the native Australians dubbed “Aborigines” by the British settlers were not classified as humans by the Australian government.  They were considered “flora or fauna.”  And the government had the authority to remove light-skinned native children from their families as part of the program depicted in “Rabbit-Proof Fence” to make them part of the white community.

We meet the future singers as children, three sisters and their cousin, performing at a family celebration in 1958.  The light-skinned cousin is taken to become part of what is now known as the “Stolen Generation,” with no contact with her family.

A decade later, as young women, the sisters still sing together.  Gail, the feisty oldest (Deborah Mailman of “Rabbit-Proof Fence”), the ambitious Julie (pop singer Jessica Mauboy), and the flirty Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) enter a local competition singing American country and western.  Braving the bigotry of the audience, they sing a Merle Haggard song.

The accompanist/master of ceremonies is Dave (“Bridesmaids’” Chris O’Dowd) is a broken-down mess who seems to have burned every possible bridge that once linked him to music, a job, his home in Ireland, or any semblance of self-respect.  But he still knows the real deal when he hears it.  As amateurish as they are, Dave sees what the sisters can become.  They ask him to come with them to try out for a chance to perform for American GIs in Viet Nam for $30 a week.  Soon they have reconnected with their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), switched from country to Motown, and passed the audition under their new name, inspired by a ring — The Sapphires. O’Dowd’s shambling charm plays well against Mailman’s protective ferocity and the wartime background and struggles against bigotry add some heft what might otherwise seem like a lightweight jukebox musical.

A girl group with four members under high-stress touring conditions far from home means many opportunities for romance, adventure, and power struggles, plus the inevitable rehearsal montages. “Can you make it sound blacker?” Dave asks.  He switches lead singers, guides them on stage presence, and suggests some different songs.  Both country and soul music are about loss, he tells them, but in country music the singer has given up.  “With soul, they’re still struggling.”  Dave’s passion for the music and his belief in the girls are scary but exhilarating.  So is being away from home for the first time.

The girls learn that performing is about more than great songs and tight harmonies as they are touched by the valor of the American soldiers.  It is not just that the GIs expect a show; they deserve one.  So, The Sapphires add spangles, go-go boots, rump-shaking and a lot of attitude.

That gives them the freedom to open themselves up to new experiences and new ways of looking at themselves.  And it means that we get to enjoy quite a show as well.  When the storyline starts to feel too close to the familiar “VH1 Behind the Music” soapy sagas of backstage tensions and heartache, those fabulous classic soul songs of the 60′s ring out, thoughtfully matched to what is happening off-stage.  “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “What a Man,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Hold On!  I’m Coming,” and many more add tremendous energy and spirit.  They are every bit as entertaining as they were nearly half a century ago.  Equally entrancing is a touching moment when they sing a native song called “Ngarra Burra Ferra.”

The credit sequence updates us on what happened after The Sapphires came home, with an extraordinary record of achievement, photos of the beautiful women who inspired the film, and a concluding line of piercing sweetness.  It would be great to have a sequel, but they deserve a documentary.

Parents should know that this movie includes strong language, sexual references, smoking, drinking, and wartime violence.

Family discussion: How do the racial conflicts portrayed in this film compare to those of the same era in the United States?  What makes them different?  Are you surprised by what the Sapphires did after their tour?

If you like this, try: “Rabbit-Proof Fence” and “Dreamgirls”



Previous Posts

Intuition -- A Short Film from Danielle Lurie
I love this short film from Danielle Lurie about a young woman who needs to learn to listen to her heart, with a wonderful performance by Montse Muñoz. [vimeo]https://vimeo.com/101953117[/vimeo]

posted 10:09:01am Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Joseph Nasser of "Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway"
Reserve Police Officer Joseph Nasser produced Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway to help raise awareness of the Amber Alert system. It stars Tom Berenger as a man on the edge, making a dead rush for Mexico and kidnapping two young girls along the way. He is hotly pursued by police chief Martha Geig

posted 8:00:33am Jul. 28, 2014 | read full post »

"Guardian of the Galaxy's" Awesome Mixtape
One of the many pleasures of "Guardians of the Galaxy," opening this week, is the soundtrack featuring some 70's classics from an "Awesome Mixtape" played by Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt).  Here are some of the highlights. "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede [youtube]http://www.youtub

posted 8:00:21am Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Comic-Con 2014: Day 2
Day 2 of Comic-Con included: an interview with "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2" screenwriter Thunder Levin, a buggy lunch with Boxtrolls, press events with the directors and casts of four films, and appearing on the Rotten Tomatoes panel, where each attendee was given a paddle with a ripe tomato on on

posted 10:04:47pm Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Thank You! This Site is 19 Years Old This Week!
It seems like yesterday, but it was 19 years ago this week that I first began writing reviews online as The Movie Mom®.  Anyone remember Prodigy?  The first appearance of my website was via the Sears-owned online service, so long ago it does not even turn up in Wayback searches.  At the time, we

posted 3:59:49pm Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.