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The Sapphires Has Its Easy, Soulful Pleasures

This fact-based, girl-group empowerment story never quite soars but has its easy pleasures, and it's likely to become one of those movies everyone sees, maybe more than once. The wonderful Irish actor Chris O'Dowd stars as Dave Lovelace, a musician living out of his car who stumbles upon a gifted girl group in rural Australia circa 1968. The four young women are Aboriginals and as such are shunned and abused by white neighbors they've known all their lives. When Julie (Jessica Mauboy), the one with the really great voice, sees an advertisement seeking acts to perform for American troops in Vietnam, she convinces the others (Deborah Mailman, Shari Sebbens, and Miranda Tapsell) to audition. After Dave encourages the girls to switch their repertoire from Merle Haggard to Otis Redding tunes, the girls soon find themselves performing in Saigon and the war zone beyond. First-time director Wayne Blair doesn't shy away from the era's social complexities, but he keeps his eye on the ball, which in this case is the sweet pull of soul-tune harmony. Why resist?
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Chuck Wilson is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group and its film partner, the Village Voice. VMG publications include LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.

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