This story is based on the true events of four indigenous women from Australia as they look for fame and fortune through a music career as well as the trials of their skin tone. 1968 isn't the greatest time for a non-white person, and certainly not a non-white girl band with a name that white folk can not pronounce. Even in local talent contests the older two of the three sisters (although the youngest sister turns up at the contest even though she was banned by her family from attending given her young age and the fact she has a young child to care for) find that they are blocked out, hated by white folk. When they lose the contest to a white woman who can not even sing.
They meet Dave Lovelace, a washed up talent scout living in his car, doing odd MC jobs for money and cheap booze. An Irish guy who once had a dream, before he fell on hard times. He stands up for the girls, gaining the loss of his job for his principles. Julie (the youngest) goes to him for help, showing him an advert for singers in Vietnam. Pretending she can't read so that he will help her. Dave phones up the advert, gaining the group (and himself as keyboardist) an audition in Melbourne. An audition they can't possibly hope to win with just Gail and Cynthia, the older sisters as their mother will not allow Julie to attend. Leaving the suggestion to go find cousin Kay.
Kay could pass for white. As a child, she was taken from the family by the government. Retrained to be a white person, live in the city and forget her heritage. Something Gail has never forgiven herself for, as it was her job to take care of Kay. There is a huge rift in the family over this and the fact that Kay lives as if she is a white person. There are things both Kay and Gail blame the other for.
Kay gets convinced to join the girls, using her contacts where she works to find them a practise space. Julie runs off to be with them as well, with her father's permission. Dave starts training the girls into Soul music, instead of the country and western of their preferred song list. Trying to teach them what soul music is all about, to make them a better girl group. They change their group name when they are given the gig to sing for the soldiers in Vietnam, the name coming from the fact Cynthia wears a sapphire ring from Jimmy, the man who dumped her not long after asking her to marry him. Exploring life on the road as singers, as well as how the group cope with the horrors of war and the racist attitude of others.
This is a deep meaningful movie, which blends enough humour into the mix to show its message without you being bogged down too much with the depressing sides. The interplay between Gail and Dave Lovelace is just perfect. Their constant fights, their bickering, the insults. You just know that sooner or later they are going to end up together. As Dave wears down Gail's 'mask' of stubbornness, of independence from taking care of her sisters. To where she can finally start to open her heart to him. There are scenes between the two of them which strongly remind me of the ups and downs of my own relationship. I think a lot of people will find their love story both touching, as well as romantic.
As well as being plugged full of some of the greatest and most recognisable music of the era. From Build Me Up Buttercup and What a Man, to I Heard it Through The Grapevine and Soul Man. Enough to keep people of all ages singing and dancing along to the soundtrack. Or in the movie theatre!
Don't let the dark themes put you off this stunning movie, it really is worth viewing. Trigger warnings for anyone who finds war, violence or loud noises (such as gunshots) an issue.
Sarah Beth James