As the manager of a girl band looking, Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd) teaches the four Aboriginal singers the distinction between country western and soul music: both are about loss, but in country western they just resign themselves to it and whine. In soul, they yearn to get back what they had. In 1968 Australia, this useful information helps to catalyze these young women; they switch to soul, come of age, break some ethnic barriers, leaving behind family, including a child for opportunities in Vietnam singing for American troops. That child, Tony Briggs, wrote a stage play based on the adventures of his brave mom and her pals, and now a movie -- in fact, the feel good movie of the year. The Sapphires has dazzled audiences, making its rounds through various festivals including last year's Cannes.
At its premiere party at the Hudson Hotel, Tony Briggs had his mother Laurel by his side. In the movie, directed by Wayne Blair, we first hear her quartet as little girls singing a spiritual tune, in the aboriginal language we don't quite get, about Moses and the water, then a Merle Haggard tune at a competition, and finally, it's Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and the soul tunes of the era. The actresses Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell, Shari Sebbens, and lead singer Jessica Mauboy, a recording artist back home and most like Laurel, took the stage, with Chris O'Dowd gamely stepping up, a large hunk, by his own estimation. As this was a rocking concert for everyone, the most fun of the season to date, everyone joined in.
Tony Briggs told me he barely believed Harvey Weinstein at Cannes, when he said, this little movie is big. Noting Laurel Briggs eying the women as they performed "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," I asked, did she feel like she wanted to jump on stage with The Sapphires and do her old moves. "We are a little too old for that, " she said, "but we still sing the song my grandmother translated into our language about Moses and the water for family."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.