Influential American blogger Jeffrey Wells last week nominated The Sapphires as one of the best two films he's seen that are opening in the US this month (American poster below).
That's typical of the goodwill and positive vibes from US film writers and critics since the musical comedy-drama had its world premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival
Wells, an iconoclast who blogs at Hollywood Elsewhere, hailed director Wayne Blair's film as a “partial knockout, but entirely worth seeing for Chris O'Dowd's landmark performance as a road manager who's also a major Motown fanatic”.
His other must-see for March is Rodney Ascher's Room 237, a documentary that analyses the nuances and hidden meanings of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year.
The Weinstein Co., which bought the US and some international rights to The Sapphires just before Cannes, launches the 1960s-set saga of the Aboriginal songbirds on March 22 in New York and Los Angeles, followed by a staggered roll-out in other cities.
The US trailer and marketing campaign places a greater emphasis on O'Dowd, which makes sense because the Irish actor has quite a following in the US from Bridesmaids, This is 40 and TV's Girls and The IT Crowd.
The release of the trailer prompted more effusive comments from US websites. Examiner.com's Travis Hopson rated the movie as “unabashedly a feel-good picture” although he judged the prejudice facing the four women is undersold in favour of cheap laughs. Hopson added, “O'Dowd is strong, though, and the soundtrack is top notch. It'll be interesting to see if American audiences can connect with a story like this surrounding an Indigenous people.”
The website Filmpulse observed that “while The Sapphires looks like your typical music-based comedy, there's two big things it has going for it. One is that Chris O'Dowd stars, and the second is that it was just nominated for 12 Australian Academy Awards.” Actually by then the film had won 11 AACTAs, so maybe news travels slowly to some parts of the US.
Rope of Silicon's Brad Brevet is optimistic about its prospects in the US. In his review posted in Cannes, Brevet opined that if the Weinsteins “position this properly, and market it well, The Sapphires could be a rousing stateside success. It's good music, good performances and good fun and should play well across several demographic quadrants.”
The Weinsteins are savvy marketers and I'm sure they'll muster plenty of media coverage keyed around the participation of the key cast and creative team. It seems the Weinsteins were not discouraged by the lukewarm response to the film in the UK, where it was released by eOne last November and grossed about $1.1 million.