The Sapphires - trailer
Starring Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy and Chris O'Dowd, The Sapphires tells the story of four young Koori songbirds heading to Vietnam to entertain the troops.PT2M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-21ltf 620 349 July 6, 2012
While it was only in four cinemas in New York and Los Angeles, The Sapphires has had a solid opening in the United States.
The comic musical, about an Aboriginal girl group who rise from an outback mission to Vietnam War entertainers, took $US41,000 ($39,000) over the weekend.
The film is determined to muscle its way into your heart, which would have to be a lump of gristle to resist it.
After largely glowing American reviews, the Weinstein Company is due to roll out the film in at least 50 cities in a staged release over the coming weeks.
Deborah Mailman, from left, starred as Gail, together with Miranda Tapsell as Cynthia, Jessica Mauboy as Julie, and Shari Sebbens as Kay in The Sapphires.
When Harvey Weinstein bought the film, before it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, he was upbeat. “These girls light up the screen as much as their music lights up the stage," he said. "We're thrilled to bring the stories and music from these sisters to audiences all over the world.”
The Sapphires went on to take a strong $14.5 million at the Australian box office, then swept the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, winning 11 prizes including best film and best director for Wayne Blair.
Starring Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy, the film has become what The Hollywood Reporter called a "festival darling" after winning a series of audience awards in the US and other parts of the world.
Chris O'Dowd, left, was worthy of an Oscar for his role in The Sapphires, according to Rolling Stone magazine.
The New York Times' A. O. Scott described it as "a solid, stirring song sung with more sincerity than polish" that turned such heavy issues as war, bigotry, alcoholism and family breakdown into "bouncy, spirited entertainment".
"Like The Sapphires themselves, the film is determined to muscle its way into your heart, which would have to be a lump of gristle to resist it," he wrote.
The well-known critic Leonard Maltin described The Sapphires as "a crowd-pleaser that balances irresistible R&B music hits, dynamic performances and comedy with the serious undercurrent of racial tension during a socially tumultuous period".
And while he thought some of the story points were heavy-handed, Maltin called it "a feel good movie of universal appeal" with enough social history to give it substance.
"I hope word-of-mouth is strong enough to win it the audience it deserves here in the States," he wrote.
Rolling Stone's Peter Travers raved about O'Dowd's performance as the band's boozy manager as deserving of Oscars attention.
"The transitions don't work, sometimes it gets sentimental but this music! Can you hear Motown now in your head? ... You can't stop but being happy. It just puts a smile on your face that you can't wipe off."
The New York Post's Sara Stewart said the film was mostly snappy and fresh, even it had a "shaggy structure".
"It's so much fun you won't mind much and and most viewers will be completely new to this eye-opening story of how some feisty Aussies made their musical mark in Vietnam."
There has also been plenty of Hollywood affection for The Sapphires with director Steven Soderbergh telling one interviewer that he encouraged Blair while they worked together on the play Tot Mom for the Sydney Theatre Company.
"It sounded to me like a really great movie idea: it was visual, it had music in it, it was an interesting time period, there was a political aspect to it that's totally underneath everything just because of who these women were and the time period," he said.
And on Twitter, Judd Apatow recommended the trailer to his 900,000 followers, while Hugh Jackman told his 2.1 million followers it was "a real feel good Aussie film".