Building a musical around Jessica Mauboy’s voice is a sure fire way to get a hit movie. Combine this with the acting prowess of Deborah Mailman and mix in Chris O’Dowd (the cop from Bridesmaids) throw in some classic soul songs, a lot of comedy, a few tears and some action and you have a great Australian movie that is bound to become a classic.
This film is loosely based on fact, and is also a hit stage musical. The movie centers around three aboriginal sisters and their cousin from the Cummeragunja Mission. Singing country and western songs and being abused by the local towns folk, the three sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) live in a mission and are discovered by Irish manager Dave (O’Dowd) at a local pub run by the hilarious Judith Lucy.
After recruiting Australia’s first aboriginal girl group (Australia’s ONLY aboriginal girl group, in joke, when you see it you will understand) they respond to a newspaper advertisement looking for entertainers for the American troops in the Vietnam war. What follows is an entertaining montage of Dave trying to bring out the “soul” in these girls, clumsily learning dance moves and getting everything perfect for the audition.
O’Dowd really shows his comedic skills in this role and shines as the male lead, especially when put into a cast of strong female characters. At times he even acts as a narrator, showing the audience just who these girls are and what they are to become. Mauboy stands out as the voice, as she belts out classic soul numbers like “What A Man” and “I Can’t Help Myself” her voice cuts right into your heart and something absolutely beautiful spills out from her. Mailman rises to this role and owns every single part of her character, the over-bearing sister, the “mama bear” who has “the mouth”. Every word, every action is carefully delivered and she is captivating. Tapsell is the comic relief, she is the loud mouth Aussie that everyone loves, says what is on her mind and doesn’t care about the consequences or who is listening, she is the hopeless romantic in all of us who wears her heart on her sleeve as well as her mouth. The film works with the cast and there is no-one else I could see pulling off these performances.
Surprisingly the film only goes for 90 minutes, there is enough storyline and dramatic tones to flesh out a 2-2/12 hour film with music, self-discovery, racism, drugs, sex, political tension oh and a war, but instead the decision to keep it light and whilst the conflict is resolved in the end, it is never allowed to linger or fester for more than a few minutes which works.
Earlier this year we talked about Australian movies and how majority get it so wrong, fortunately this is an instance where everything blends together beautifully to deliver a film that is destined to become a classic. There is a lot of racial tension in this movie and the Sapphires use their voices and music to show who they truly are and it is a marvel to watch on screen. This is definitely one to see at the movies!
Review by Alaisdair Dewar