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‘The Sapphires’: The strange but true story of an Australian soul group hitting it big in Vietnam

Movie Talk

‘The Sapphires’: The strange but true story of an Australian soul group hitting it big in Vietnam

Photo: The Weinstein Company

You've heard of The Supremes. But have you heard of The Sapphires?

The true story of Australian soul music coming to Vietnam is told (and sung) in "The Sapphires," director Wayne Blair's musical biopic that, like "Good Morning, Vietnam" before it, looks at one of the most destructive conflicts of the 20th century through the eyes of entertainers who brought at least temporary relief to those who fought it.

The film opens in 1968 in Australia, where four talented Aboriginal women -- Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), Kay (Shari Sebbens) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) -- are discovered by Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd), a talent scout who convinces them to drop their country and western act and shapes them into the soul group sensation known as The Sapphires. They end up scoring the ultimate gig in, of all places, Vietnam, where they entertain the U.S. troops stationed in Saigon ... often at a risk to their own lives.

"The Sapphires," which is based on the stage play of the same name by Tony Briggs, had its world premiere at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where the audience in attendance gave the cast and crew a ten-minute standing ovation. The film has since won both the Awgie Award and Major Award from the Australian Writer's Guild and received nominations from the Australian Film Institute in no less than 12 categories, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (Briggs and Keith Thompson), Best Lead Actor (O'Dowd) and Best Lead Actress (Mailman).

The trailer certainly makes the film look like quite the crowd-pleaser, though the wild card here might be "Bridesmaids" funnyman O'Dowd, whose decidedly contemporary persona and improvisational acting style might conflict with the tone and feel of such a period-specific piece. However, the exact same reservations probably applied to Robin Williams before "Good Morning, Vietnam" was released, and that worked out just fine, didn't it?

"The Sapphires" will open in limited release in the U.S. on March 22.

Check out the trailer for 'The Sapphires':