The photo of Chris O’Dowd in a hipster singing pose with the interestingly arranged women surrounding him caught my attention on the Blu-Ray rack at the Liverpool Public Library.
The Sapphires, I mused to myself, rolling the title around for a moment before I pulled it and checked it out at my workplace for viewing on the home flat screen with my dear wife Karen. Must have missed all advance notice, but I do recall O’Dowd from his pleasant turn as the addled but pleasant and patient cop pursuing Kristen Wiig’s character in Bridesmaids.
He’s good in this one. Very. And he’s got plenty of super talent with him. The Irish guy plays Dave Lovelace, whom we meet as a rather hapless keyboardist in a remote part of Australia hosting a 1968 talent contest. A trio of sisters break away from their parents to compete this day, singing a Merle Haggard song, opening his eyes and ears. When they don’t win, he throws a fit, strikes up a conversation, and convinces them they should go with him to play for the U.S. troops in Vietnam.
All the finagling that must go on before they get there, such as convincing mom and dad and a cousin who’d moved on from the family comfort to join them, is deep, fun and fine. But his biggest challenge is to get them to hook into his musical passion, soul music.
The rest, as they say is history.
This is a true story, directed by Wayne Blair from a screenplay by Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs based on Briggs’ play. And they had the real life tale of Briggs’ mother, Laurel Robinson, who was the lead singer or an all-Aboriginal soul group that toured Vietnam, overcoming prejudices along the way.
On the long and winding trip, Dave is quite taken by oldest sister Gail, played wonderfully all around by Deborah Mailman, falling for her singing, dancing and love for family. She, in turn, is worn down by his diligence, loyalty and acquired taste charm.
Find The Sapphires somewhere and give it a whirl. Five years after its release, it seems fresh. I dare you not to smile, chuckle, maybe even tear up a time or two.
What’s your favorite music-based movie, and why? What movie have you discovered years after its released and thought was a gem, and why?