Film review: THE SAPPHIRES from Built For Speed

A film about a quirky Irishman putting together a group to perform classic 60’s soul music, no it’s not The Commitments it’s The Sapphires.  This film is based on real events and tells the story of four young Aboriginal women, who in 1968 are lured by their manager (Chris O’Dowd) to perform as a Supremes style act for the troops in Vietnam.  Despite their harmonious music, the four women: Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), Kay (Shari Sebbens) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) have very conflicting personalities and in some cases, bitter resentments born out of family divisions.

This could have been a politically potent look at a tumultuous period in Australian history but the filmmakers have opted for a quirky comedy where uncomfortable issues take second place to broad, feel good humour and spirited musical numbers.

The film also suffers from clunky dialogue and acting (Deborah Mailman’s flinty performance aside) which consistently deprive the film of the dramatic punch and emotion it desperately needs.

As a film about the uplifting and unifying power of music, particularly soul music, though, it’s a winner with the group and in particular Jessica Mauboy, belting out some rousing 60’s tunes.

Those looking for a realistic film about the Vietnam War, however, may want to look elsewhere as this film presents a very sanitized view of the conflict.  Interesting the ladies only seem to encounter US troops and don’t run into any Aussie soldiers.

The music and the mostly likeable characters make this film diverting enough – and judging by the box office it’s certainly been a crowd pleaser – but for a film about such a pioneering musical act in such a fascinating time, it should have been a more compelling story.


Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: PG

Director(s): Wayne Blair

Release date: 9 August 2012

Running time:  103 min.

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