Movie review: ‘Sapphires’ gives a false sparkle
Published: April 19, 2013 11:26AM
Updated: April 30, 2013 04:15PM
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Manager Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd, left) and his girl group, The Sapphires -- from left, Gail (Deborah Mailman), Kay (Shari Stebbens), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) -- perform in "The Sapphires." The Weinstein Company

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