By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Interesting true story has good music, not enough soul.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though the bulk of the movie is about achieving fame and falling in love, there are some interesting human rights themes in the margins. One is about the "stolen generation" of Aboriginal children in Australia; light-skinned children were seized from their families to be raised in white schools and taught "white ways." The movie takes into account some of these racially themed tensions. Other themes include the benefits of hard work and teamwork.
Positive Role Models
The four female singers show how hard work and teamwork can bring rewards, though very often the main focus of their work is on achieving fame and success. During the end credits, viewers learn that the real-life women never became famous. Instead, they all went to work in their community, living fulfilling lives and trying to make the world a better place for Aborigines.
Violence & Scariness
An attack sequence in Vietnam includes bombs going off and bullets flying. One of the main characters is hit, but it's seen only from a distance. A little blood is shown. Two of the girls punch each other in the face in one scene; one gets a bloody lip. A gun is introduced but never fired. In a tense flashback, white officials descend upon an Aboriginal village, intending to take any light-skinned children. The girls sing in a Vietnam hospital for wounded soldiers, and viewers see missing limbs, etc. There's a news report about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lots of kissing, and one of the singers is especially flirty with many men, though she's never in any danger. In one scene, she's shown kissing and straddling her prone boyfriend, though they're both fully clothed. Many other romantic scenes of flirting and kissing, though there's really very little sexual innuendo, sexuality, or nudity.
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"S--t" is used occasionally, as are the "N" word, "t-ts," "d--k," "ass," "crap," "hell," "damn," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). Additionally, there's some regional slang, such as "gobshite," "shite," "arse," and "rack off," plus insults like "moron" and "goat face."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main male character is seen drinking (beer and whisky) and drunk fairly often. He wakes up with a comical hangover the first time he's on screen. He gets very drunk during a card game with some soldiers, which results in his making a mistake. He also smokes cigarettes, as do many of the background characters -- which is accurate for the era.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Sapphires is a fact-based musical drama about an Aboriginal singing group that went to Vietnam in the 1960s to entertain the soldiers. In addition to themes of teamwork and following your dreams, it deals with the immoral practice of whites taking light-skinned Aboriginal children away from their families to be re-educated and raised as whites. Sexuality is probably the biggest content issue here, though most of it involves romantic flirting and kissing, with only one scene of real sexual suggestion. There's one scene of Vietnam War-related violence, with shooting and explosions, plus some mild fighting and a little bit of blood. Language includes infrequent use of words like "s--t," "t--s," and the "N" word. And the main male character is a heavy drinker, getting drunk and suffering from a comical hangover in some scenes. Many characters smoke cigarettes (accurate for the era).
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Where to Watch
Based on 1 parent review
Wonderful movie to watch for the whole family.
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What's the Story?
In 1968 Australia, a trio of talented, passionate singing Aboriginal sisters enters a talent show, where the jaded, keyboard-playing master of ceremonies, Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd), discovers them. The sisters decide to audition for a paid gig as entertainers for the soldiers in Vietnam, and they ask Dave to come along. This requires them to track down a lost cousin, Kay (Shari Sebbens), who was taken as a child and integrated into white culture. Kay joins the group, but tension between her and group leader Gail (Deborah Mailman) starts to escalate. Further tension grows when Dave falls in love with Gail. Can the entertainers learn to get along before something terrible happens to them?
Is It Any Good?
Co-written by Tony Briggs, who's the son of one of the real-life Sapphires, THE SAPPHIRES is beautifully cast and has great music, as well as a terrific true story at its core. It's too bad that that story -- while certainly a feel-good tale -- ends up feeling fairly formulaic; at times it feels more like a story you've heard before than anything that might actually have happened in real life.
At one point, Dave explains how soul music is about loss and fighting to hang on. But at another point, he hangs signs on the four singers with labels like "the sexy one" and "the dance captain." To put it simply, the movie is more about signs like those than about loss or fighting or hanging on. It knows exactly where to put songs, montages, dramatic interruptions, and cheerful celebrations, each of which is designed to push an audience's buttons on cue. Many folks' buttons will definitely be pushed, but it's too bad The Sapphires isn't more in touch with its own soul.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The Sapphires' sexuality. How much of it is romantic, and how much of it is erotic? Does it ever cross the line?
How does the movie portray the whites' treatment of the Aborigines? Do you think it's accurate? How could you find out more? What did you learn about Aboriginal culture from this movie?
What's the allure of fame? Why would these girls have gone to such a dangerous place in search of it?
How does the movie depict drinking? Are there any realistic consequences?
- In theaters: March 22, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: August 6, 2013
- Cast: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy
- Director: Wayne Blair
- Inclusion Information: Indigenous directors
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Musical
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
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