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THE COMMITMENTS
Classic Movie Review

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The Commitments, 1991
Classic Movie Reviews
Directed by Alan Parker
Starring: Robert Arkins, Colm Meaney, and Andrew Strong
by Carey Lewis



Synopsis:

The travails of Jimmy Rabbitte to form the "World's Hardest Working Band," The Commitments, and bring soul music to the people of Dublin, Ireland.

Review:

Here’s another under-appreciated jewel to come out of Ireland.

At a friends wedding, Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) is approached by a couple of friends to manage their band. The friends are playing the wedding, and the first thing Jimmy says is they need to drop their singer.

Jimmy we learn, through mock interviews he has with himself, wants to be famous. A few times during the film, he interviews himself; asking himself questions like, if he knew it would come together like this, if it was difficult, and if he every had any doubts. His replies of course are, yes he knew it would come together like this, it wasn’t that difficult, and no he never had any doubts.

Jimmy quickly decides that the band will play Soul music, and they’ll be the only band in Dublin to do so. He puts an ad in the paper and candidates show up around the block to apply. This film is very lighthearted and funny, and the many different kinds of people that show up, and how Jimmy handles them, is a good example of this.

The band is finally formed, and a big one it is. There’s a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, a trumpet player, a sax player, a lead singer, and three backup singers. They call themselves The Commitments; the hardest working band in Ireland.

Through begging, stealing, and borrowing, they’re able to get equipment and a rehearsal space. The in-fighting has already begun, but it’s largely ignored by Jimmy, who is looking at nothing short of world domination.

The band gets a gig and some things go wrong, but they’re able to prevail and win over the crowd. The gigs get bigger and bigger, and the egos on the band begin to grow. Most notably by Deco Duffe (Andrew Strong) the lead singer of the band. His ego begins fairly early when he objects to the girls having their own song to sing. In fact, no one in the band gets along with Deco, but of course this goes ignored by Jimmy, who chooses not to deal with it.

It all comes to a head during their final concert when they’re promised that Wilson Pickett will perform with them after his show is done. Once again, The Commitments rock the venue and the audience, but backstage they just can’t stand being with each other anymore. Deco and the drummer (Mickah Wallace) have a fist fight in the alley, and all three girls are fighting with each other because they’ve all been with the trumpet player (Johnny Murphy). Jimmy comes in to see all this, after being offered a record deal, and leaves the band. The hardest working band in Ireland didn’t work hard at all when it counted and when hard work needed to be done. The band dissolves just as they were on the verge of major success.

So why is this film great? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the music. If you don’t like Motown, then you’re just not human. Motown might be my favorite genre of music. If not favorite, then definitely top five, and they play great Motown music together. Most people will be blown away by the voice of Andrew Strong. He’s not the best singer in the world, but the emotion he puts into the songs more than makes up for it. He’s got the perfect voice for Motown. Soul music is called that because the music touches your soul and the singer puts his soul into the music. Strong will definitely touch your soul.

The way Parker shoots this film is very well done, especially the performance scenes. The performance pieces grow in the way they’re shot, until you get to the final performance, and you feel like you’re watching a concert DVD and this band is finally ready to tour the world.

Ireland is presented as a very poor country, which makes the band seem all that more important to each member. Dogs run wild on the streets, as do the kids, who seem like street urchins. Most people won’t be able to believe the kids running around vandalizing, but it just shows that the kids have nothing else to do in such a poor state. Small apartments are occupied by large families, and everyone has to work to support the family.

This film could have easily been a heavy drama, but Parker does a good job in keeping it loose. Of course he had a great script to work from by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, and Roddy Doyle. Take this example when Jimmy first shows the band a tape of James Brown, telling them that this is the kind of music he wants them to play. One of the band members asks if they’re too white to play this kind of music. Jimmy’s reply is “Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud.”

Also worthy of note is Colm Meaney as the father of Jimmy Rabbitte. He idolizes two things: The Pope, and Elvis. In his house is a big framed picture of The Pope, and above that is a smaller, framed picture of Elvis. When anyone talks bad of Elvis, he considers it blasphemy.

I would suggest not watching this movie if you don’t want to get the soundtrack, because once you watch it, you’ll definitely want to hear this band again.

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