Some might say that Alan Parker’s The Commitments is just a movie about putting a band together, but it is so much more than that.
Certificate : 15
Aspect ratio 1.85: 1
Roddy Doyle’s original story, full of Irish wit, is tremendous entertainment. Self-styled manager Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Atkins) places an ad in a Dublin newspaper to recruit members of “the world’s hardest working band.” After sorting through a ridiculous assortment of applicants, he assembles a group that features three girl backing singers and a two-man horn section, including the mysterious Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan (Johnny Murphy), who is old enough to be their father.
This crowd of vivid characters makes the core of the interest, but it is the way that it is written and directed that brings out the best in it. Doyle wrote the book while still a teacher, and I can imagine that his pupils helped to shape the characters. As he was not a screenwriter, the script was re-worked – and comedy enhanced – by Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais, the duo behind classic British sit-coms/dramas The Likely Lads, Lovejoy, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Porridge.
We only see three gigs, culminating in one that a visiting Wilson Pickett was due to watch, but constant band tensions meant that the act had no future.
The film has an undercurrent of social commentary, fleshing out what it means to live in north-side Dublin, when there was little hope of breaking out of the city and finding fulfilling work - unless you were a footballer or played in a band. But the politics never gets in the way of the story.
Bonus Material: This superb 25th Anniversary edition comes with nearly two hours of well-produced, filler-free bonus features: a ‘making of’ (and another, briefer American version); a ’looking back’ featurette (and a newer one for this edition); a short piece about Dublin history and culture as background; and a music video that gives Atkins – a real musician, like most of the cast – the chance to sing on one song, which the plot did not allow. You also get a digital version of the movie and two sets of stills.
On top of all that, Parker’s commentary is so full of fascinating information that it covers much of the featurettes’ material on its own. You get many snippets, such as noting that one lad, who came to Jimmy Rabbitte for an audition, but would not sing in public, was the face of U2’s Boy.
For me, DVDs are for movies that you want to play over and again. This is so full of sharp humour, great characterisation and classic soul performances that it stands up well to repeat viewing.