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THE SAPPHIRES

               

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 23, 2013

This offbeat little Australian musical may have slipped by you during its brief Salt Lake run, but it's well worth looking up now that it's on video (Anchor Bay, rated PG-13).

Chris O'Dowd, whom you may know from the hilarious British TV series "The IT Crowd" — and if you don't, look for that one too — plays a boozy failed entrepreneur that discovers a quartet of Aboriginal singers in 1968, three sisters and a cousin.

O'Dowd's character is down on his luck and isn't expecting anything when the young women start to sing but he immediately recognizes their talent and takes them under his wing. First, he gets them to drop their country-western set in favor of soul music and then lands them a tour of gigs performing for combat soldiers in Vietnam.

The film is funny and heartfelt, emotive and tragic, and it has something to say about racism, wartime and familial responsibilities, and the late 1960s Australian and Vietnam settings are quite convincing.

O'Dowd is a hoot but that's not to discount the women. All four deliver first-rate performances and they sing as well as they act.

Some have characterized "The Sapphires" as an Aboriginal "Dreamgirls," which is a fair comparison, I suppose, but it does trivialize just how good this one is.

And, in case you haven't guessed by now, it's a true story. The real-life singers are interviewed for one of the DVD/Blu-ray's featurettes.