The Commitments

1991, Movie, R, 120 mins

Review

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This typically slick but largely enjoyable Alan Parker offering is the story of the rise and demise of a young Irish soul band. As with his earlier film, FAME, Parker has attempted to capture the infectious energy of popular music; and as with his previous feature, MISSISSIPPI BURNING, the director has taken on an alien culture (this time that of the working-class, primarily Catholic North Side of Dublin) and reduced its complexities to a glib, commercial formula.

When Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) is asked by two friends to manage a dreadful wedding band, he takes the opportunity to begin building something more ambitious: an authentic soul outfit to be called The Commitments. The newly formed band immerse themselves in the soul classics as they begin struggling their way through rehearsals. Their working-class philosophy is spelled out by Jimmy: "The Irish are the blacks of Europe; Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland; and the North Siders are the blacks of Dublin. So say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud." The Commitments' music improves with predictable, if enjoyable speed. As they begin to develop a following on the pub circuit, the usual tensions start to manifest themselves.

For all its emphasis on working-class integrity, THE COMMITMENTS is really FAME wrapped in streetwise packaging. All the cliches of the star-is-born subgenre are here, from the neatness with which the band members fall into place to the amazing rapidity with which they develop a professional sound (not to mention the implausibility of a group achieving such success by playing straight cover versions of classic soul songs). The whole thing has the feel of an extended sitcom--not surprising given the fact that Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, veteran English TV writers, helped Roddy Doyle adapt his original novel for the screen. THE SNAPPER, a superior film, is also based on a Doyle novel about the Rabbitte family. leave a comment

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