Loosely based on a true story, The Sapphires is a musical comedy which follows a group of singing Aboriginal Australian women on their 1968 rise to fame. Destined to languish in racially marginalized obscurity in their homeland, the group’s fortunes turn when they’re discovered by alcoholic has-been Dave Lovelace (Chris O’Dowd), who shifts their focus from country/western to soul and lands them a successful audition to perform for the troops in Vietnam.
Based on that description, you can probably piece together most of the plot on your own. The story arc is familiar, the characters fall neatly into established archetypes, the emotional cues are broadcast loudly, and the romance at the center of it doesn’t quite work. And yet, the film succeeds, thanks mostly to O’Dowd’s unfailing charisma and a steady string of excellent performances of enduring soul classics like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “What a Man,” led by real-life Aussie pop star Jessica Mauboy.