The Sapphires, in case you haven’t heard, is a new Australian film starring Chris O’Dowd and Deborah Mailman, which was released in (Aussie) cinema’s this week (released in the UK in November but no USA release date yet). Based on the exploits of an Indigenous Australian girl group that toured Vietnam in the late 1960s, this film is the definition of a feel-good film. If I sound shocked, it’s because I am, we don’t set to see that many well-made Australian films have don’t leave me in a deep depression – at least not ones that don’t deal exclusively in stereotypes (Crocodile Dundee anyone?) Seriously sometimes I understand why the Australian people don’t want to see Australian films. But then every so often a film like this comes along and I am reminded that when we do it right, it’s bloody good.
After seeing The Sapphires I wanted to shout from the roof top about how good it was and I planned on writing a review, basically in the hopes that I could convince people to go and see this fantastic film. The problem is I have never been particularly good at reviewing; besides the whole process doesn’t really work if I’m really trying to write a call to arms. I mean I could tell you what’s wrong with this film, it is by no means perfect (it’s not The Avengers after all) but there is more good than bad so really what’s the point? Instead I thought I would give you a list of other feel good Australian films that will compliment your viewing of The Sapphires… you see what I did there, I’m just going to assume you’re going to see it, that way you will have to.
As I started writing this list I came up with a problem, most of the feel good Australian films I love are the ones that everyone knows about – because they actually did well (funny that). Anyway there is no point me rehashing a list of films that everyone has heard before. We all love The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding (man 1994 had it going on) – at least I hope you do. This list will look at slightly more obscure films that you might not have heard of, or didn’t bother to see, or have just forgotten about. OK so they’re not the most obscure films ever and they could hardly be called the best, but they are movies about Australian life that always make me smile.
Love and Other Catastrophes (1996)
This quirky little film is set at Melbourne University, where Mia (Frances O'Connor) and Alice (Alice Garner) have just moved into a trendy new apartment, so trendy that they can’t really afford it, they need a roommate. There is a simple solution, Mia’s girlfriend Danni wants to move in, but Mia’s having some commitment issues so that suggestion doesn’t end well. Meanwhile Alice is in search of the perfect man, only problem is he doesn’t exist. If only she could get past her idealisations and see that adorable medical student Michael is totally into her. Because this is a nineties movie it all climaxes with a house party… and yes hilarity does ensue.
I think maybe I am partial to this film because it’s about the wonderful world of Arts degrees at university… but it has other things going for it as well. Like some awesome nineties outfits. It also has a great female friendship and a lesbian relationship! Are you convinced yet? Well they also discuss the merits of Doris Day (who doesn’t love Doris Day) and there is a male gigolo… yup.
Paperback Hero (1999)
You might have seen this one, the TV networks sometimes play it because well Hugh Jackman. Personally I think that’s enough of a reason to watch this film, but if you need more convincing, here goes.
Paperback Hero is about a truck driver, Jack Willis (Hugh Jackman), who also wrote a romance novel. Because of the rigid expectations of masculinity in the rugged Australian outback Jack has to use a female pen name. He could have just made up a name but that wouldn’t have made for much of a story, no instead he calls himself Ruby Vale, which just so happens to be the name of one of his friends – a friend he just so happens to have a lot of sexual tension with. For reasons that are not really important, Jack convinces Ruby to stand in for in on a promotional tour to Sydney. Stuff happens, things are mistaken but ultimately love wins out in this cute little film about embracing your true identity, even if that identity is a truck driving romance writer.
Who’s in the mood for a predicable but fun rom-com… only everybody!
Better Than Sex (2000)
Speaking of predicable but fun rom-com’s with gorgeous male leads… why hello there David Wenham, and what’s that you’re not wearing a shirt. Sometimes I think I should probably stop recommending things just because they have attractive men in them but then I think no. But there is more to this movie than David Wenham’s beautiful face, and other parts.
Better Than Sex is about a one night stand that goes horribly wrong, or right if your into that kind of thing. Josh is an expat living in London, he’s only in Sydney for three more days, so when he meets Cin at a party and they decide to head home together it’s a pretty safe bet that the relationship is going nowhere. But what if they want it too? It’s impossible right, a one night stand can’t turn into a lasting relationship or god forbid true love? With the help of an angel like Taxi driver, these two crazy kids figure out that some things are better than sex… hopefully it’s not too late. Also did I mention the sex?
The Rage in Placid Lake (2003)
This is where I break from my tradition of recommending films purely because they have attractive men in them. Ben Lee wouldn’t really be referred to as sexy, but this movie makes up for that with Rose Byrne (you know the bitchy one from Bridesmaids). Yes, she is very pretty.
In case you didn’t guess from his name, Placid Lake’s (Ben Lee) parents are hippies and because of this fact he has had a pretty hard time growing up. His life pretty much sucks, apart from his chemistry loving best friend Gemma (Rose Byrne), and Placid is pretty sure it’s his parents fault – they sent him to school in a dress in order to challenge gender norms. After an existential crisis, Placid thinks he’s figured out how to get things right –and piss his parents off at the same time – he’s going to go straight.
Sometimes it’s a tad pretentious, and Ben Lee is not going to win an Oscar for his acting ability but this is a sweet film about letting go of the past and accepting yourself for who you are. The added bonus is that it’s hilarious and also Rose Byrne.
The Black Balloon (2008)
This is probably the most critically acclaimed film on this list – it’s also a little bit more serious but ultimately this is a sweet film about love and family, and as a result leaves you leave this film with a smile on your face. It’s basically a coming-of-age story about fifteen-year-old Thomas Mollison (Rhys Wakefield), who is just trying to fit in at school and maybe even get the girl. The problem is that Thomas’s brother Charlie has autism, and when his mother Maggie, (Toni Collette), is forced into bed rest because of her pregnancy Thomas is tasked with looking after his brother. Thomas clearly loves his brother, but when he begins a relationship with Jackie (Gemma Ward) he becomes increasingly annoyed with the responsibility that comes with having autistic sibling.
Although this film deals with serious subject matter it does so in a hilarious and ultimately endearing way. This is a movie that restores my faith in humanity and gives me a good giggle along the way, I really can’t recommend it enough.
Well there you have it, five films that should keep you busy before and after you head to the movies to see The Sapphires.
Thank you, lonely follower for listening to my awesome recommendations.