Every Oscar season, there has to be that random indie that, though no one you know has seen it, is destined to become a Best Picture nominee before it even opens in theaters. We’ve seen this over the last few years with The Weinstein Company’s The King’s Speech and The Artist… and it looks like TWC is going for a hat trick, because they’re pushing their new indie The Sapphires. (Make a note here, kids—apparently the way to that statuette is marketing with TWC and having “the” in your title.)
Maybe you don’t recognize the name, but you’ve certainly heard of its star Chris O’Dowd. Since winning our hearts in Bridesmaids, he’s had some follow-up roles that are both charming (Friends with Kids) and creepy (Girls), but he hasn’t found a project to really establish himself and continue that momentum. The Sapphires could be it, where he plays a drunken Irishman in 1960s Australia who discovers three Aboriginal girls with beautiful voices and a whole lot of potential.
The film already screened at the Telluride Festival and is looking at a lot of buzz for the Toronto International Film Festival. At the former,The Hollywood Reporter said that ”this film proves to be everything that 2006′s Dreamgirls tried to be, and more.” High praise indeed!
You’ve got a similar race issue providing the emotional underscoring: In the ’60s, dark-skinned Aboriginals were segregated from Australian society and not even considered people. But O’Dowd’s character recognizes that he can properly manage them so that they can win a contest to perform for American troops in Saigon. What’s especially interesting is the shift from the girls attempting to sing country to embracing music with more soul.
Whether there are any inter-group rivalries like what broke up the Dreamgirls clan remains to be seen. It might be that this quasi-true story manages to be a tearjerker without delving into any of the members’ egos… or maybe O’Dowd’s character will let them down the way Jamie Foxx‘s character does. But just check out the trailer and see how funny it is—the easygoing but sharp humor reminds me of Bend It Like Beckham, don’t you think?