It’s a good thing Chris O’Dowd is on screen a lot during The Sapphires, because he brings some welcome comic relief to a movie that feels steeped in the wrong kind of comic relief. At the same time, the story isn’t really about him, so what the hell is he doing on screen so often?

Those are the thoughts that crop up again and again while watching The Sapphires. The story of four Aboriginal women in Australia—sisters Gail, Cynthia and Julie, along with cousin Kay—who go to Vietnam in 1968 to sing for American soldiers, The Sapphires treads the line between comedy and drama, not always getting the tone right.

For example, race is a constant theme in this movie—part of the story deals with Kay’s forced assimilation into white Australian culture and her cousins’ resentment. But for big chunks of time, the issue is brushed aside as the women try to avoid being shot on the frontlines.

Plus, how many more movies must we sit through that are supposed to be about minorities but have a white lead? I know white Irishmen like O’Dowd love soul—I’ve seen The Commitments—but did they really have to sell others on the Motown sound this hard?

Directed by Wayne Blair
With Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy

99 min.