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The Sapphires (2012)

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It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all-girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.

Director:

Wayne Blair
27 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tanika Lonesborough Tanika Lonesborough ... Young Gail
Nioka Brennan Nioka Brennan ... Young Kay
Lynette Narkle Lynette Narkle ... Nanny Theresa
Kylie Belling Kylie Belling ... Geraldine
Tammy Anderson Tammy Anderson ... Evelyn
Miah Madden ... Young Julie
Ava Jean Miller-Porter Ava Jean Miller-Porter ... Young Cynthia
Carlin Briggs Carlin Briggs ... Young Jimmy
Gregory J. Fryer Gregory J. Fryer ... Selwyn
Miranda Tapsell ... Cynthia
Deborah Mailman ... Gail
Jessica Mauboy ... Julie
Koby Murray Koby Murray ... Baby Hartley
Hunter Page-Lochard ... Stevie Kayne
Chris O'Dowd ... Dave Lovelace
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Storyline

1968 was the year that changed the world. And for four young Aboriginal sisters from a remote mission this is the year that would change their lives forever. Around the globe, there was protest and revolution in the streets. Indigenous Australians finally secured the right to vote. There were drugs and the shock of a brutal assassination. And there was Vietnam. The sisters, Cynthia, Gail, Julie and Kay are discovered by Dave, a talent scout with a kind heart, very little rhythm but a great knowledge of soul music. Billed as Australia's answer to 'The Supremes', Dave secures the sisters their first true gig, and flies them to Vietnam to sing for the American troops. Based on a true story, THE SAPPHIRES is a triumphant celebration of youthful emotion, family and music. Written by Goalpost Pictures

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

One ambitious manager. Four unknown singers. The tour that put them on the charts wasn't even on a map. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook

Country:

Australia

Language:

English | Aboriginal

Release Date:

9 August 2012 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Les Saphirs See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$38,372, 24 March 2013

Gross USA:

$2,450,867

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$20,423,628
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Goalpost Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie's co-writer and associate producer Tony Briggs is the son of Laurel Robinson, a member of the real-life The Sapphires group. See more »

Goofs

All of the Tupperware shown is from the mid-70s and later. The colors are all 70s colors - avocado green, harvest gold, burnt orange - and Tupperware didn't introduce the Instant Seal until that time. See more »

Quotes

Dave: Before we go than, girls when I met you you were doing all country and western thing and that's fine we all make mistakes. But here is what we learn from that mistake. Country and western music is about loss. Soul music is also about loss. But the difference is in country and western music, they've lost, they've given up and they are just all wining about it. In soul music they are struggling to get it back, they haven't given up.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Between the tribute and the end credits are period photos of the real Sapphires and a contemporary picture of the four women. See more »

Alternate Versions

The Australian version is slightly different (roughly 3 minutes longer) than the one shown in International Markets. It does not have a title card in the beginning of the movie explaining about the Aborigine people and that the film is based on a real story. On the other hand. several scenes are cut shorter by a few seconds in the International version, and the end title card is also different. While it describes in details what became of each character in real life, showing pictures of each of them individually, the Australian one briefly sums up their achievements as a whole. There's a final picture of the ladies as they look-like nowadays (shown in black and white in the International version and in color on the Australian one). See more »

Connections

Referenced in Top End Wedding (2019) See more »

Soundtracks

Burnt Biscuits
Written by Booker T. Jones and Chips Moman
Published by Irving Music Inc.
Licnsed by Universal Music Publishing Group Pty Limited
Master Produced and Engineered by Trent Williamson (as Trent 'Kanga' Williamson)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Melodramatic, Clichéd - Utterly Charming
2 April 2013 | by Simon_Says_MoviesSee all my reviews

In the vein of 2006's Dreamgirls, import The Sapphires briskly chronicles the rise of a fictitious all-black female singing troupe, this time comprised of Australian natives and a roguish Irishman who instructs them to the spotlight. While completely unimposing and heaped with clumsy clichés, it's all more than a little bit charming and benefits from strongly executed covers of some famous soul hits.

Fashioned from rather obvious genre tropes, The Sapphires nevertheless provides a genuinely unique setup and subsequent execution of how these women – three sisters and their cousin – find a measure of recognition. It certainly makes more than a modicum of sense to have this journey set in the land down under seeing as this is from where the film heralds, though having these ladies be of aboriginal descent is fresher. There is no Motown, Harlem or sleazy record labels here.

Furthermore, the venue where this group find their fame is none other than the Vietnam War, performing their newly acquired affection for soul to the homesick American troops. For Western audiences particularly, it's a unique mash-up of cultures and one that ultimately serves as a character of its own.

The principle cast (and filmmakers for that matter) are mostly comprised of first-time actors and unknowns, and for the spread of talent, it's all rather impressive. Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell are as green as performers can get and Jessica Mauboy, though used to being in the spotlight thanks to her music career, is equally unfamiliar to acting. Of this family, it's only Deborah Mailman as the eldest sister who has any kind of a resume, though she does not detrimentally outshine the others, nor is she slumming it by any means.

Bringing most of the infectious energy and charisma however is Chris O'Dowd, who has been gaining some serious recognition with roles in Bridesmaids, Friends with Kids and This is 40. A whisky-swilling Irishman who stumbles across The Sapphires (though not their name at the time – a source of much frustration) at a talent show, he becomes their adoptive manager. O'Dowd scores almost all of the film's laughs and again adds in another cultural dynamic that is much appreciated.

Less appreciated is the smattering of clichés and familiar story arcs that allow The Sapphires to indulge in all the contrivances attributed to an afterschool special. Will all these ladies find love on this foreign journey? Will one be able to speak fluent Vietnamese at a life- or-death situation? Considering the setting, will there be a shoehorned- in action sequence? Is the Irishman the only heavy drinker? Will these sisters struggle with inner rifts and power struggles? Of friggin' course.

It's the latter overused trope that is both the most obnoxious, though oddly is it also the one most unlike I've seen before (but don't think it's any less obvious or limp). Instead of some sort of self-destructive descent into the world of show business being the driving factor that drives a wedge between the group, it just seems to be petty bitchiness. There is an underlying history between two characters that hopes to heighten the clashes, but for Mailman's Gail in particular she just comes off as a massive rhymes-with-witch. Of course she gets her redemption, but the writing doesn't do her any favours.

Additionally, considering the time period, it's reasonable to expect heavy does of racism, even when we're dealing with countries often less associated with it. Unfortunately The Sapphires massively overplays its race card, inserting bigotry at the most awkward junctures and introduces it even amongst the family. In doing so it utterly dulls the much-needed message and dose a disservice to the film as a whole.

But, of course, first and foremost a lot of people will be interested in this film because of the music, and it doesn't disappoint, despite not being a full-fledged musical. Though the numbers are strung together without much of an underlying structure, the covers ranging from I Can't Help Myself and I Heard it Through the Grapevine always impress, as do the actors delivering them. Even O'Dowd proves he has some decent pipes on him.

For what it ultimately is, and for what it ultimately seems to be vying, The Sapphires is more than a bit appealing. The rifts are well delivered, the acting strong and the execution has enough of an identity to distinguish it from other musical dramas. It may not possess enough heft to always deserve its interesting setup but it's more organically amiable than most of the movies you've seen this year.


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