The Commitments (1991)
The Dublin Soul Band
Say it once and say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud - Jimmy Rabbitte
Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) is a man with a vision and that vision is to bring soul to Dublin. Asked by musicians Derek (Ken McCluskey) and Outspan (Glen Hansard) to manage their band he starts recruiting for musicians and singers to make up what he hopes will be a Dublin Soul Band. Amongst the diverse people who join the band are the sexy Imelda Quirke (Angeline Ball), 45 year old horn player Joey 'the lips' Fagan (Johnny Murphy) and young bus conductor Deco Cuffe (Andrew Strong) who has a voice to rival Joe Cocker. But whilst a talented bunch who manage to create some great music they are also very opinionated causing one argument after another with poor Jimmy trying to keep them together.
Now here is the thing you watch "The Commitments" and you ask yourself what is it all about, not on face value as it's clearly a comedy about a band, but what is the deeper meaning to it all and for the life of me I can't see one. As such "The Commitments" is very much a movie which what you see is what you get and there is no hidden message or social statement, it's just an entertaining movie. And it works because the entire journey we go on through the movie is enjoyable with clever writing, snappy honest dialogue and some brilliant, quirky scenes which paint this picture of Dublin being rough, or as Jimmy says as he signs on "a third world country".
So with no hidden message the story to "The Commitments" is simple and fun from start to finish as Jimmy tries to put a Dublin Soul Band together. We watch the range of quirky characters that show up to his home to audition and then the tension between the various characters when the band is formed. And the tensions aren't just youthful anger as with 45 year old Joey 'the lips' Fagan joining the band there is sexual tension as this unlikely sex god manages to bed each of the three backing singers. It's all amusing with most of the comedy coming from the arguments and fights which break out through out the entire movie all made more entertaining because of the raw dialogue which accompanies them.
But here is the thing the storyline and the writing is very good but where for me "The Commitments" works is in the countless music filled scenes as we watch the band both rehearse and gig. With so many great classic soul songs covered it is a joy to not only watch but also listen to especially with Andrew Strong's gravelly voice really bringing the songs to life. It's not just Andrew Strong who makes the musical elements work as with a lot of musicians playing the main roles all of the songs work from Angeline Ball as Imelda Quirke singing "Too Many Fish in the Sea" through to the deep discussion between Jimmy and Steven discussing the lyrics to Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale".
What is nice is with so few actual actors appearing in "The Commitments" there is an honest rawness to the performances which is in keeping with the comically raw portrait which Alan Parker paints of Dublin. So whilst there is the occasional nervousness from the likes of Glen Hansard as Outspan or Ken McCluskey as Derek it works. And for a bunch of musicians they make the comedy of the arguments so believable especially with Andrew Strong as Deco at the centre of it all with his obnoxious and drunken behaviour. Plus for those sharp eyed music lovers the members of the Corrs appear playing various characters with Andrea Corr most dominant as Jimmy's younger sister.
What this all boils down to is that "The Commitments" is a brilliant movie which is what it is, good fun, good music and no hidden messages. It is full of comedy as we watch Jimmy try to control the various characters in the band, trying his hardest to keep them together. But it is the music side of "The Commitments" where it works best with a brilliant soundtrack featuring so many great covers of classic soul songs. It may be 20 years old but "The Commitments" still works brilliantly.
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