IoS film review: The Sapphire
Alps

Great music, great story, but the script needs serious tuning

Even with a different title, The Sapphires would sound like a sparkling film. It's adapted from a stage musical, which isn't necessarily encouraging, but it's also inspired by the life story of the writer's own mother, a member of an Australian Aboriginal girl group which entertained American infantrymen in Vietnam. You couldn't ask for a more promising premise. In the fictionalised version, the young women are crooning Country'*'Western numbers in an outback pub when they're spotted by a washed-up cruise ship MC, Chris O'Dowd. He buys them some sequinned dresses, teaches them about Otis Redding, and soon they're being packed off to Saigon.

Cue some great music and earthy Aussie banter, all of which makes The Sapphires preferable to Beyoncé's girl-group vehicle, Dreamgirls. But over all it's a flimsy, clunkily scripted comedy drama that ignores every question it raises. For instance, we don't learn how an Aboriginal pop group would have been received by a white audience in 1960s Australia, because we never see them perform outside Vietnam. Nor do we learn what it was like for four rural women to perform to crowds of stoned GIs in a distant war zone, because there's more authentic warfare in the average episode of M*A*S*H.

Missed opportunities come thick and fast. The screenplay touches on the connection between African Americans and indigenous Australians, but makes nothing of that connection. One character (played by Jessica Mauboy, an Australian Idol finalist) can't get through a scene without bringing up her dreams of stardom, but then suddenly the subject is dropped, never to be mentioned again. O'Dowd, at least, is likeable. But hearing an Irishman rhapsodise about the majesty of soul music serves only to remind you of The Commitments, and make you wish you were watching that instead.

Yorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth has to be one of the most bizarre movies ever to be nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. And his follow-up, Alps, is almost as strange. Throughout the first half we haven't a clue what the characters are up to. All we know is that we're in a bleak, windswept, greeny-grey Athens, watching a series of banal conversations with something intriguingly not-quite-right about them.

It's only after Lanthimos has kept us in a state of nervous befuddlement for 40 minutes that we get the picture: the Alps is the name of a group who have pioneered their own form of bereavement counselling. For a few hours a week, the four will impersonate someone who has just died in order to help the grieving friends and relatives adjust to their loss. Yes, it's preposterous, but in Lanthimos's world of deadpan surrealism, no one questions the lunacy of the scheme Ω nor does anyone complain that the team-members' wooden impressions of their loved ones hardly constitute value for money.

Charlie Kaufman or Chris Morris might have done wonders with the concept, but Lanthimos's oblique, misanthropic black comedy is most likely to appeal to those who found The Master a bit too straightforward. It's an uncompromising film from a singular talent, but it eventually feels as if one joke is being stretched past the point of being funny.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam