Did you know that the capital city of Ireland, Dublin, was actual named after a Anglicized version of the word ‘Black Pool’? Honest to God. It was told to me by Director: Alan Parker; and Actors: Robert Arkins, Colm Meaney, Andrew Strong, Maria Doyle, Bronagh Gallagher, and Johnny Murphy. They told it to me for 118 minutes in 1991.
The Commitments : The Film - The Music
Now what would you do if you was a young fantasist living off of the dole in Ireland? Yes – that’s correct – I would do exactly the same thing – prostitution. However, urban entrepreneur, Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins), has got other ideas, and decides to manage a band of energetic Irish misfits to play soul music instead.
He already has a handful of young hopefuls under his wing you see, with his mates Dean (who plays the Sax), Steven (who plays the piano), Billy (who plays the drum), and Outspan (who plays the bass). But still, he needs more, right?
So whom does Jimmy get? No - not the Ghostbusters – and there is nothing coming his way care of the advert he has put in the newspapers either. Rather, Jimmy decides to get some other people that he knows as well, starting with overworked outspoken beauty, Bernie (Bronagh Gallagher), plus her mates, Imelda and Natalie (Angeline Ball and Maria Doyle), to make a triage of female backing singers. Next, Jimmy nabs the services of ass-hole bus-conductor, Declan Cuffe (Andrew Strong), because has a beautiful singing voice. Plus to top the band off, Jimmy is approached by a mysterious trumpeter, called Joey Fagan (Johnny Murphy), who is a well-versed musician who has played with the stars, and guides this inexperienced urchin down the path that he has yet to travel.
OK, so what path would that be you may ask? The path of music of course! Jimmy has to get the equipment, KA-CHING! The band has to practice, HONK! Arrange a gig, BOING! And finally, its show time, TA-DAH!
Great news, right? Especially taking into consideration that the newly baptized ‘Commitments’ first gig, held in a church hall, is a partial success – because they do very well on stage, even if the amps do blow up near the end of it. And I suppose that you can say the same about the second gig too, held in a run down pub – because they begin to synergize more as a group, even if they do all want to murder the load mouthed Declan. However, as for their third gig, held in a roller-rink... well... by this stage, the band is starting to change.
How so? (1) Billy the drummer has left the band for other commitments than ‘The Commitments’ (pun intented) and is replaced by nut-job Mickah . (2) The girls in the band are starting to fight amongst themselves, because they have all had a fling with Joey. (3) Dean starts to evolve his style from soul to Jazz. (4) Declan is still a tosser. And (5) Mickah has to help Jimmy out with a spot of bother he is having during the third gig, with some gangsters that he has borrowed some money from.
Now is there a fourth gig? Yes. And where is it held? A pub. Is there something different with the dynamics of the band this time? Yes – they all want to kill each other. And do they? No – they play first, with the promise, from Jimmy via Joey, that Wilson Picket with turn up and jam with them. But as you may have guessed by now, not everything turns out what they hoped it would be. Now on stage, everything is just fine, but off stage... ooofff... not the type of noise that you want to be hearing at the Midnight hour (pun intended).
In the same vein as such filmic greats as 'Goodfellas' and 'Dog Day Afternoon' (click on the appropriate link for the review), 'The Commitments' tells a tale of the rise and fall of a promising adventure, but this time with singing instead of shooting, BANG!
Personally speaking, I really-really enjoyed watching this film, because it has an urban grungy quality to its tone, expressed rather vividly through the Irish brogue of this fledgling cast. Granted, on occasion, you really have to listen hard to the dialogue spoken in this piece, as the accents are quite strong. However, you cannot really judge this film on accent alone; you have to judge it on the three main components it conveys – the music – the comedy – and the story.
MUSIC: Where the music is concerned, this picture is just terrific. If you are a fan of soul or just great music in general – boy-oh-boy – you have to watch this film. Now the main singer, Andrew Strong, plays an ass-hole off of the stage, and channels Joe Cocker on it. And I have to say that he is really good at both. The girls do a great job as well – not as good as Andrew mind you – but they are a lot prettier than the ugly looking sod. The backing band is top notch as well, though I would surmise that they are synchronizing to playback through some of there performances. Still, all in all, the music is just fantastic-fantastic-fantastic.
COMEDY: Now the comedy of this film is on par with the music. OK, in places, the humor is staged in-between plot points, so as to not distract from the drama within this movie. But in the same breath, when there is humor within exposition scenes, its does lend itself to push a point home – such as Deco being a wanker – or Jimmy's state of mind at a particular time. My personal favorite scene in ‘the Commitment’, was the last scene that Jimmy was in - when he speaks to himself in the mirror and recites the lyrics to ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. To me, this optimizes the whole movie - the humor of it, the rhythmical tone of it, and the offbeat reality that it puts across.
STORY: Finally, there is the story. OK, as I said as the beginning of this review, it is a ‘rise and fall’ film. Nevertheless, just like all ‘rise and fall’ films, it is sometimes rambling in places, and certain things do not seem as clear on first viewing. In addition to all this, there is the morality question that this film tries to convey – its heart as it were. Does music inspire people when all hope is lost? And why is hope lost to begin with? Well, where this film is concerned, hope is lost through poverty and a poor climate - hope is lost in the egotistical mad men who think that they are better than everyone else - and hope is lost at a whim of fate, never to return.
Oh! And on a side note, most of the actors in this film never returned that much to the big screen after this film was released (which was a surprise). Fair enough, the girls, Johnny Murphy, and Colm Meaney, have all been seen here and there over the years – especially Colm. But as for the rest of them, where have they disappeared too? Ironically enough, the music business – that's where (isn't life ironic). Plus lets not forget that the Irish band ‘The Coor’s’ are in this film too – the two girls who play Jimmy’s twin sisters, and the guy who plays the guitar at Jimmy auditions. Isn't life just a grand picture?
‘The Commitments’ – a great film, with great music, about great people, in a not so great a time. A classic piece of Irish cinema.
THE RATING: A - top of the morning to you sir!