Released in 1991, The Commitments was Alan Parker's third film about pop music. His first, Fame, was a frothy coming-of-age-musical that made the most of its youthful enthusiasm despite a disease-of-the-week-style script. The second, Pink Floyd: The Wall, was a depressive, insular, and angular pastiche of moody myth-making that was interesting mainly for people who fried their brains listening to "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" a hundred times too often. The Commitments sits somewhere in the middle: An engaging, open-hearted entertainment that pulls off two neat tricks. First, it's one of the few movies about rock-pop-soul music that seems to have the right idea about why and how bands come together, with some fine performances from rank amateurs. But more impressively, it finds some great humor in a setting that's defined by grinding poverty.
The setting is North Dublin, where Jimmy Rabbite (Robert Arkins) is trying to simultaneously shrug off his parents' bad taste and the dole-driven life that surrounds him. Jimmy carries a deep and abiding love for soul music of the pre-Motown era - Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson, and so on - though he understandably has a hard time convincing his friends and family that soul isn't an exclusively black music. In a video store, Jimmy plays old-school soul tapes to the unbelievers before uttering the film's funniest and most poignant line: "The Irish are the blacks of Europe. Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. North Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin."
Continue reading: The Commitments Review