A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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).
- Parents say
- Kids say
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
- 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 23, 2020
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