Jimmy Rabbitte, just a tick out of school, gets a brilliant idea: to put a soul band together in Barrytown, his slum home in north Dublin. First he needs musicians and singers: things slowly start to click when he finds three fine-voiced females virtually in his back yard, a lead singer (Deco) at a wedding, and, responding to his ad, an aging trumpet player, Joey "The Lips" Fagan.
Margaret: Alan Parker, maker of Midnight Express, Fame, Angel Heart, etc., has been looking for that breakthrough film for a while. Maybe with The Commitments he's found it. The film is set in modern Dublin, looking at times almost post-apocalyptic, with narrow backstreets glistening with rain, and mangy dogs loping their way from trash can to trash can. Out of this unlikely setting comes the most delightfully honest, funny, heartwarming film I've seen in a long time. It's about a group of young people coming together to form a rock bad – a Dublin soul band, to be more precise, because soul has the rythm of sex and of the working class.
Jimmy is the prime mover of the band, he's the manager and it's his travails we experience, as he gathers together a disparate group of young Dubliners who've got the right sort of music talent. Certainly Jimmy doesn't pick and Parker doesn't cast for cuteness.
A world is created that gives us a glimpse of some of the band members' backgrounds and we can guess at others. Jimmy's family is particularly endearing. But it's wrong to think this film is sugarcoated, it's deliberately non-sentimental, which is part of the attraction for Parker, whose background is working class London.
It's based on a book by Irish school teacher Roddy Doyle. The cast of mostly complete unknowns is outstanding. The film is gutsy, dirty, funny, but most important it's honest, and I loved it.
David: I love it too, I think it's certainly Alan Parker's best film probably since Fame. It's certainly an improvement on his very serious films about racial intolerance and things he's been doing lately. Very earnest. He has cast brillantely, I mean the casting director obviously earns a lot of brownie points for this film, because it is a great ensemble of people, the music is great. Watching that little sequence we showed just now, it reminded me very much of Milos Forman's Taking Off, this kind of cutting between all these strange characters. I think this is a near-perfect film, I loved it and I give it 5 out of 5.
Margaret: I think it's near perfect too, but I only give it 4½ out of 5.
(The Movie Show, Episode 32, 1991)
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