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Movie review: 'Sapphires' gives a false sparkle

Published April 19, 2013 11:26 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

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.

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'The Sapphires'

Opens Friday, April 19, at Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking; 103 minutes.