Weinstein Company via Everett Collection
Ugh... Mondays, am I right? Every week kicks off with that trademark despair so expertly articulated in Mike Judge's Office Space: you've got a case of the Mondays. Luckily, Netflix has you covered, with plenty of pick-me-up comedies to make the worst day of the week a bit more jolly. To start off our Netflix Hand-Picked Flix recommendations, we suggest The Sapphires.
Set in 1968 to a soundtrack of the biggest soul hits of the time, The Sapphires follows a family of Aboriginal Australian women (Miranda Tapsell, Deb Mailman, Jessica Mauboy and Shari Sebbens), who are discovered by a washed-up, alcoholic Irish talent scout, Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd), and become a soul-singing girl group performing for troops in Vietnam.
Although the film doesn’t downplay either the political turmoil of the time or the personal struggles of the four main characters — Gail, the oldest, is trying to keep her family safe and whole, Cynthia is looking for a chance to rebel against her conservative family and live her life, Julie is torn between her young son and her dreams of being a singer, and Kay, who was stolen from her family as a child because she could pass for white, is struggling to find which group she belongs in — The Sapphires is ultimately a hilarious, uplifting film. Much of that is due to O’Dowd’s wonderfully goofy performance as Dave, who can’t keep from screwing everything up, no matter how hard he tries, and he and Mailman’s fantastic chemistry helped make the obvious romance between Dave and Gail both amusing and touching.
You can stream The Sapphires on Netflix, and make sure to check back tomorrow for our recommendations for the perfect Bluesday Tuesday movie.
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The film scooped six trophies at the prizegiving, including awards for Best Film and Best Lead Actor for Bridesmaids star O'Dowd.
Wayne Blair took the Best Director title, Deborah Mailman was named Best Lead Actress and Jessica Mauboy won Best Supporting Actress. The film also landed the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The haul adds to the five technical AACTA honours which were given to the film at a pre-awards luncheon on Monday (28Jan13), taking The Sapphires' total to 11.
Joel Edgerton's thriller Wish You Were Here was also among the winners, securing the Best Original Screenplay honour and the Best Supporting Actor prize for Antony Starr.
In the TV categories, the Best Television Drama Series prize went to Puberty Blues, while Best Lead Actor went to Richard Roxburgh (Rake) and Best Lead Actress went to Leah Purcell (Redfern Now).
The ceremony at Sydney's Star Casino was hosted by Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe and featured appearances from Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush.
The main Australian ceremony follows the handing out of the AACTA International Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday (26Jan13) - the majority of the foreign film prizes all went to acclaimed drama Silver Linings Playbook with wins for Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress - International) and David O. Russell (Best Direction - International).
Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver picked up the international supporting actor titles and the movie was also named best international film.
The Irish funnyman has landed a Best Actor nod for playing the manager of an Australian girl group in the comedy, while his co-stars Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy were respectively nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.
Bridesmaids star O'Dowd faces stiff competition for the Best Actor prize, going up against Guy Pearce (33 Postcards), Joel Edgerton (Wish You Were Here) and Matthew Goode (Burning Man).
Best Actress hopeful Mailman will do battle with Hollywood's Toni Collette for her role in Mental, as well as Felicity Price (Wish You Were Here) and Sarah Snook (Not Suitable For Children).
The Sapphires is also nominated in the Best Direction and Best Film categories, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography, among others. Other Best Film contenders include German drama Lore, Wish You Were Here and Burning Man.
The prizegiving will be held in Sydney next January (13).
Back in May, commanding executive Harvey Weinstein declared that his latest acquisition, The Sapphires, was "the next Artist." Last year, Weinstein picked up the French language film at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and successfully paraded it all the way to the Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards. When The Sapphires premiered at Cannes 2012, the mega-producer knew he had another hit on hits hands and the bold comparison forcefully pushed the film into awards contention. Harvey Weinstein: war strategist.
Does The Sapphires actually live up to the hype of its bellowing campaign manager? The Australian drama kicked off its award season journey at the Toronto Film Festival to little fanfare, overshadowed by fresher films being unveiled for the first time. But the film — starring Bridesmaids costar Chris O'Dowd and Aboriginal actresses from down under — really is the perfect feel good movie that voters have often gravitated towards. The Sapphires has all the components for Oscar potential: Set in the 1960s (period drama, check!), the movie follows four rambunctious gals struggling with Australia's racial divide (easily recognizable conflict, check!) who hit it big when they're hired to perform pop song covers (musical numbers, check!) for soldiers serving in Vietnam (war movie, check!). Along the way, a few of the ladies fall in love (romance, check!) and O'Dowd serves up a memorable, hilarious performance as the group's manager (breakout actor, check!). If only one of them had a terminal illness....
The Weinstein Company still has a challenge on its hands. Missing from the near-perfect checklist is a recognizable actor to slap on a poster and sell the darn thing. The Sapphires' Australian stars, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, and Miranda Tapsell, are wonderful as the main quartet, but they're unknown. The movie's background adds to the uphill battle; not to say that Americans are ignorant, but the past proves world films have never done the business or award-collecting that homegrown blockbusters routinely do. The Sapphires is very Australian — a treat for anyone unfamiliar with the Aboriginal culture, but not as easily digestible for U.S. audiences as, say, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.
But as proven by The Artist, sometimes straight-up great buzz can turn the unlikeliest movies into hits. The Sapphires is reminiscent of the picture perfect dramas of the '80s and '90s. Think Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man or Forrest Gump. Last year, The Help recreated that magic with a mix of serious drama and light laughs. The Sapphires does the same thing. O'Dowd as Dave, a burnout Irish musician desperate for a new gig, is the embodiment of that balance. When Dave's tough on the girls, pushing them to leave behind their families to audition for the Vietnam tour, he's inspirational and heartfelt. When he's flirting with Gail (Mailman), he's a total goof. And as anyone who knows his comedic work on shows like The IT Crowd, he can sell even dopiest one-liner.
The Sapphires is fluff, but it's well done fluff. That's the biggest link between The Artist and director Wayne Blair's debut feature: they're sweet. If a black & white silent picture could take the top spot at year's end, why not one about four Aussie ladies with voices like Beyoncé?
[Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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