Fed up with bands and life in general in working class Dublin, Jimmy Rabbitte decides to start a band or his own, and begins by holding auditions in his living room.
Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) gets a brilliant idea one day to assemble a should band in the tradition of Wilson Pickett, Otis Reading and Aretha Franklin – in Barrytown, north Dublin. After putting an ad in the local paper, Jimmy holds open auditions at his house, but they show little promise of anything. However, not to be easily deterred, Jimmy enlists the help of a few friends who bring together a handful more people, and after seeing his drunken performance at a wedding, he also calls on Deco (Andrew Strong) to be the band’s lead singer. Jimmy also receives a late response to his ad in the form of Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan (Johnny Murphy), an ageing trumpet player who has played alongside all the greats. Together, they form The Commitments, the hardest working band in the world, and song by song, gig by gig, they begin to make their way up the showbiz ladder. They perform wonderfully on stage, however the clash of egos backstage means things very quickly become less harmonious.
Yet another film I’ve been on a mission to see for a while is The Commitments – Ireland’s answer to The Blues Brothers, and finally it was shown on TV. I did very much enjoy it and found it to be well worth the wait. The only problem I has was for the rest of the day I had ‘Mustang Sally’ stuck in my head, and seeing as I know only one line of the song, it became quite monotonous quite quickly.
The film starred a number of people who are Irish acting or musical royalty, or are at least directly related to someone that it. It was great to see Colm Meaney as Jimmy’s dad, and I was amazed to see that Andrea Corr played Jimmy’s sister. Andrew Strong is the son of Irish soul singer Robert Strong, so it’s hardly a wonder that he had such a magnificent voice. I’m not going to lie, for the majority of the film, the acting was alright, but nothing to write home about, but The Commitments is more about the music and the portrayal of the spirit of Ireland. For me, the quality of the acting was a minor detail here oddly enough.
The writing is superb and sort of makes you proud to be Irish knowing that it came from the same place you did originally. It’s witty, intelligent, and it’s nothing that would have been out of place in my nan’s house on a Saturday evening when the whole clan would be gathered round there after mass.
In the end though, we come to the only thing that really matters: the music. Soul music is always good to listen to, but when sung by a bunch of daft Paddies more or less fresh out of school, it becomes a beautiful thing. I don’t know if any of the events depicted in the film are based on anything that happened in real life, but even if they aren’t they still show the power music can have on a community. Like sport, it is universal and can narrow divides and bring people together even in the hardest times. Like Joey said after the final gig, ‘The success of the band was irrelevant – you raised their expectations of life, you lifted their horizons.’ The music helped people to forget about the struggles at the time and gave them something more to focus on, making it not entirely implausible to say that it was the music that got them through the bad times. It might be clichéd as anything, but I think the underlying message of the film is that sometimes you’ve just got to make the best of a bad situation by looking at the positives you can draw from it.
So, on the whole, The Commitments is an extremely enjoyable film to watch. The script is terrific and the music is fantastic, although it’s not quite as good as The Blues Brothers soundtrack. Nonetheless, I couldn’t recommend you see the film strongly enough, even if it was just so that I wouldn’t be the only one singing that one line from ‘Mustang Sally’ on repeat.