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Even Chris O’Dowd – the Irishman from geeky UK TV show The IT Crowd, who’s now a Hollywood star thanks to his role in Bridesmaids – made light of such, arriving on set joking that he, too, was from “just up the road”, despite his home being thousands of miles away.

What makes The Sapphires such a worthy crowd-pleaser though is its ability to juggle the weightier, ‘state of the nation’ themes, which have more than a little relevance to contemporary Australia, with being an exhilarating sing-along musical designed to, above all, entertain.

One especially poignant flashback sequence lifts the lid on a divisive moment in the family’s history in which Kay is removed from her family and taken to boarding school, where she’s shaped by a slew of racially stereotyping beliefs held by white Australians – the so-called ‘stolen generation’.

Yet for every heavy moment like this, there are comedic moments to burn: O’Dowd’s Dave is first glimpsed compering a small town talent competition and, later, teaching the girls how to dance ahead of a performance.

Then there are the scenes surrounding the girls’ rivalry, and the attempts by the boozy Irishman to intervene when they’re not keen on being told what’s what by an outsider.

Add to this the captivating musical numbers themselves, a collection of Motown classics and country numbers with a Sixties pop spin (10 of which are sung by Mauboy on the accompanying movie soundtrack), and it is a surefire recipe for success.

Where the Australian international success stories have been searing, disturbing dramas (Snowtown), grizzly crime thrillers (Oscar-nominated Animal Kingdom) or pants-wetting horrors (Saw, Wolf Creek), The Sapphires is a cross between Dreamgirls, Strictly Ballroom and The Full Monty with the scenery of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert – and it has all the charm and feel-good passion that combination suggests.

“I was nervous of the fact we were telling someone else’s story,” Mauboy says of the film’s origins. “I had sung someone else’s song before but I’d never had the opportunity to do this.

"From the first time I was handed the script and heard there were auditions, I was nervous, and this film took over my life for a year. But from the first time I read it [the script] this story reached out to me and I totally fell in love with it.”

Audiences have fallen in love with this gem of a movie, too, and it is going to win even more hearts when the girls take to the international stage.

The Sapphires will be released nationwide on November 7 through Entertainment One.


Photos: Getty


Interview: Australian pop star Jessica Mauboy shines in feel-good film The Sapphires, about an inspirational Aboriginal singing group
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