The premise of Australian director Wayne Blair’s period musical drama, The Sapphires, reads like a Down Under version of Dreamgirls but with a healthy dose of humor to appease the mainstreamers out there who need something familiar and feel-goody to get them through the rough historic bits. Four talented aboriginal girls (Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell) ban together in 1968, despite the odds and cultural/social obstacles, to form a musical group that ends up traveling to Vietnam to entertain the troops.
This unlikely quartet finds its voice and style with able assistance from a huckster scout (Chris O’Dowd), but there are plenty of bumps on the road, both within the group and from the world at-large. Loosely based on a true story, The Sapphires shines thanks in part to a tricky, nuanced performance from O’Dowd, that lightly unearths laughs and sentiment without pandering, granting the movie a strong beat that audiences will feel and be unable to resist. (PG-13) Grade: B+