The Sapphires - Outshining Dreamgirls
by Chartreuse 26/11/2012 21.29
Three talented Aboriginal sisters living in a one-horse Australian town dream of stardom as a girl-group. One audition later, they pick a up morose manager who transforms them and their dual heritage (as is actress Shari Sebbens) cousin into a saleable sound and sight, and soon they are performing in an exotic location. The beauty of Vietnam and appreciative audiences contrast with the shock of the wounded in the hospital gigs. Shrewd but bottle-bound manager Dave and combative older sister Gale make is possible for them all to live and survive the surreal dream of bombs, bullets, glamour and applause.
Based on a stage play, this Aboriginal answer to the Dreamgirls' loose biopic of The Supremes, The Sapphires is perhaps more accessible to a British audience. Lighter with more humour and grit and less glam, and so well performed that every character stands out; the sexy one, the lead singer, the dance captain, the feisty protective contentious Gale with the soft centre who has yet to identify her role. The racism and aparteit are as shocking as anything presented in Dreamgirls, especially the the fate of Caucasian-looking children like cousin Kay which causes a guilt-filled feud between her and Gale. At a time and in a place where people still had to choose, Kay rocks between her enforced white upbringing and her roots and indigenous relatives. Yet this is a tale with happy endings, and romance on the road for all.
Hopeless to hopeful Dave is convincingly played by Chris O'Dowd (The IT Crowd), and Jessica Mauboy, RnB singer-songwriter, provides ear-catching vocals for youngest sister Julie. The title of the movie and the group is taken from the engagement ring of stormy but cute sister Cynthia played with gusto by Miranda Tapsell. The audience gender bias on the opening night in the local multiplex was female but my male movie buddy thoroughly enjoyed the film, especially Gale, rating award-winning Deborah Mailman's performance as excellent. It was her character that drew him into the narrative. Mailman presents us with a difficult personality that is somehow easy to love.
The Sapphires is based on a true story of two sisters and two cousins who went on to become community leaders working to improve education and conditions for Aborigines. From the aaahs at the real life photos as the credits rolled clearly all four actresses had succeeded in involving the audience with themselves and their inspiring story. Interestingly and uncharacteristically, the girls were even more attractive than the actresses.