A heavy-handed anti-racism message isn’t easier to take when played to a Motown beat, though the Australian comedy-drama “The Sapphires” acts otherwise.
It’s 1968, and Aboriginal sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) form a singing trio in their rural town, though getting respect from the racist townfolk is difficult. One supporter is Dave Lovelace (“Bridesmaids” co-star Chris O’Dowd), an alcoholic Irish piano player who thinks the girls could be stars if they sang soul songs.
Dave signs on to manage the girls, who become a foursome when reunited with their light-skinned cousin Kay (Shari Stebbens), who was removed to a white foster home as a child as part of a racist government policy. The girls get a gig touring U.S. military bases in Vietnam and soon are embroiled in the war’s horrors.
Co-writer Tony Briggs based the script on his mother’s experiences, but the finished product (directed by Wayne Blair) comes off forced, phony and formless.
Opens today at Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking; 103 minutes.