A gem of a flick

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

IT is all too easy for a home­grown, unashamedly feel­good af­fair like The Sap­phires to be damned with faint praise.

Es­pe­cially in what has been a de­cid­edly feel- bad year for the Aus­tralian film in­dus­try in gen­eral.

How­ever, what The Sap­phires does well – blend­ing stir­ring mu­sic in­ter­ludes with ge­nial com­edy and a touch of drama – it does very well in­deed.

A crowd­pleaser that hits ev­ery au­di­ence de­mo­graphic with ef­fort­less ef­fi­ciency is not to be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Lo­cal view­ers of all shapes, sizes and per­sua­sions are bound to have a lot of fun in the com­pany of The Sap­phires in the months to come.

There has been a boom on the mod­er­ately- bud­geted pro­duc­tion since it was snapped up by a ma­jor Amer­i­can stu­dio on the eve of the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val.

It is not hard to see why Hol­ly­wood took an in­stant shine to The Sap­phires.

The movie takes a quintessen­tially Aus­tralian tale – in­spired by the real- life ex­ploits of a lit­tle- known Abo­rig­i­nal girl group of the 1960s – and tells it in an ir­re­sistibly charm­ing way sure to res­onate far be­yond these shores.

And it will be well away from our own terra firma that much of The Sap­phires is des­tined to take place.

The McCrae sis­ters, Gail ( Deb­o­rah Mail­man), Cyn­thia ( Mi­randa Tapsell) and Julie ( Jes­sica Mauboy) grew up on a quiet mis­sion set­tle­ment think­ing coun­try and western mu­sic was where ev­ery­thing was at. Then they have a chance meet­ing with a boozy Ir­ish mu­sic im­pre­sario, im­prob­a­bly named Dave Lovelace ( Chris O’Dowd).

An acolyte of soul mu­sic in its purest form, Dave re­moves ev­ery last trace of Nashville from the girls’ creaky reper­toire, and ap­plies a ma­jor Mo­town makeover.

With the re­cruit­ing of a fourth mem­ber from the Mccrae sta­ble, es­tranged cousin Kay ( Shari Sebbens), the shim­mer­ing, shim­my­ing Sap­phires are an in­stant song- and- dance sen­sa­tion.

In a flash, the girls find them­selves spir­ited from the banks of the Mur­ray River to the killing fields of Viet­nam at the height of the war.

It must be said that The Sap­phires is more than a lit­tle clunky in parts.

Aside from the as­sured com­edy smarts of O’dowd and Mail­man, per­for­mances are quite un­even.

Many char­ac­ters are un­der­de­vel­oped to the point of stereo­type.

How­ever, all short­com­ings are in­vari­ably for­given when­ever the hy­per-tal­ented Mauboy gets near a mi­cro­phone, and the film’s win­ning se­lec­tion of soul stan­dards and orig­i­nal tunes fire up.

GO­ING PLACES: Dave Lovelace ( Chris O’Dowd) and Gail ( Deb­o­rah Mail­man).

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