Alan Parker‘s film follows the rise and fall of a young Irish soul band, based on the first part of Roddy Doyle’s ‘Barrytown Trilogy’.
Set in a 90s working-class area of Dublin, young unemployed Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) is a man with a vision – to bring soul music to Dublin. His friends Derek (Kenneth McCluskey) and Outspan (Glen Hansard) ask him to manage their band and Jimmy agrees, but only on his terms.
He places an ad in the local paper that simply reads: “have you got soul? If so, the World’s Hardest Working Band is looking for you”.
Jimmy brings together a conflicting group of young people to play rhythm and blues cover versions of black soul singers – and so The Commitments are born.
The initial learning process involves watching old James Brown performances and the all-white band collectively chanting: “I’m black and I’m proud!”
Of the band’s new members, two stand out as inspired discoveries. Deco (Andrew Strong), is a loutish chauvinist with a true soul voice, but unfortunately, his fondness for hogging the limelight soon brings him into conflict with the other band members.
The other interesting character is born-again-Christian Joey ‘the Lips’ Fagan (Johnny Murphy), an ageing trumpet player who travels everywhere on a moped.
He claims to have played for many American soul legends but his fellow musicians are more than a little sceptical about his stories.
However all does not go smoothly and soon their success on stage is overshadowed by their off-stage rivalry, not in the least helped by Joey who seduces all three female backing singers.
The band’s members struggle with one another to become a tight, fine band – at least for one night.
The strong soul music soundtrack includes Try a Little Tenderness, Mustang Sally and Midnight Hour.
Maria Doyle Kennedy
Joey ”The Lips” Fagan