I went into the The Sapphires with such great expectations There’s nothing I enjoy more than a quality true story about a group of people beating the odds, defying everyone’s expectations and going onto greatness. Throw some music on top of that and you’ve got yourself a movie that I’ll watch in its entirety every time it comes on TV for the next 25 years. Add in Irish actor Chris O’Dowd, and hell, I’ll marry that movie. (Provided it understands that I cannot and will not sleep on the left side of the bed.)
So you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that The Sapphires didn’t exactly deliver what I ordered. In my head. I really went in thinking that I’d leave the movie inspired. Instead I just left. As people usually do when the movies end and the lights go on and they’re trying to get out of the theater before someone fingers them as the culprit who spilled soda down the aisle.
There are two huge problems that prevent this film from being good — and they’re both spoilers. So if you’re the kind of person who loves commenting “way to spoil the whole movie!” please keep reading.
One problem is that the story’s not that good — or at least the ending’s not that good. It built and built and built and then blaahhhhh. Part of the reason is that it has a blah ending is because it’s a true story. Now, I think we all know that the majority of us don’t live made-for-movie lives. And therefore we shouldn’t have movies made about our lives Do we all have good stories about moments in our lives? Of course! I have certain stories that I tell over and over and over — with different embellishments each time, depending on the audience. But I would never think that makes my story movie worthy. Mostly because there’s no big Hollywood ending to it. It’s always like, “and then the waiter calls over the manager who agrees to take the extra soda off the bill since we never ended up getting it!”
The Sapphires starts off with the three sisters and their cousin trying to turn their singing skills into an act that will allow them to travel to Vietnam to perform with the troops. With the help of Chris O’Dowd, they’re able to make it happen. They travel through the Vietnam, performing songs beautifully, building up a fan base among the soldiers and learning all kinds of lessons about love, life and war. Every performance had me getting more and more excited for these women who spent their lives being marginalized by Australian society, simply because they were born with the wrong color skin.
They return triumphantly to Australia after a whirlwind, death-defying tour through Vietnam and…..go back to their normal lives. That’s not to say that the real, live women that the movie’s based on didn’t have wonderfully fulfilling and inspirational lives. I’m just saying that I’m surprised, based on every movie I’ve ever watched, that they never went on to become famous in Australia. Or at least return to the establishment that once wouldn’t let them perform because of the color of their skin — and throw their success in all those racsits’ faces. They just came home and seemed to tuck the story away. While I don’t want to take away from what I’m sure was an amazing life experience, I just felt like the ending would be more emotionally gratifying. A little more Hollywood if you will.
Now my second problem with the movie revolves around the romance between Chris O’Dowd and Deborah Mailman, the woman who played Gail, the eldest of the three sisters. There’s absolutely no chemistry between the couple. As in none, zilch, coke zero amounts of chemistry Which presents quite the challenge to the audience since we’re supposed to go along with the fact they fall in love over a very short amount of time. Here’s a message for all movie makers out there: if you’re going to give us a love-at-first-sight romance there needs to be love at first sight. Nothing takes me out of the moment faster than a couple with no spark. I felt more excitement from Tommy Lee Jones in Hope Springs than I did from Chris O’Dowd. While there are certainly scenes in the movie that are supposed to help us see that they’re falling in love, the real emotions just weren’t there. Chemistry’s one of those things that you just can’t fake.
It’s wildly disappointing to see as a Chris O’Dowd fan because I usually love his work. Given I haven’t seen much of it, but still, up until now I’ve given him rave reviews. Bridemaids, This is 40, Girls, Friends with Kids, I loved his role in all those films. So if you’re like me and you harbor secret Chris O’Dowd fantatsies, skip The Sapphires, I promise you, you’re not missing anything.