Ireland is a country of workers and simple folks. It’s situated on an isolated island and as such is considered as a god forsaken land by the continental people. As Jimmy Rabbite would say in “The Commitments”: “Irish are the blacks of Europe”. His ambition is to form “the hardest working band in the world”. His choice of music is “soul” and the Irish are ideal people for it. Of course, his friends will be skeptical. Jimmy is a man who knows about the “cool stuff” before anybody else. He sells pirated videotapes in the streetcar, false T-shirts in the market and he knew about “Frankie goes to Hollywood” before anybody else. He knew they were “shite” before anybody else too.
When Jimmy put the ad in the local papers about “the hardest working band in the world” the gallery of different people started to knock on his doors. “The Commitments” were a long shot, but he kept his cool. He was persistent. The movie is about the band of the isolated and underappreciated. It’s about music, passion and everyday problems and finally it’s about the “real Ireland”. Jimmy said: “if the Irish had a soul, maybe they wouldn’t have shot each other.” His monologue about “proud to be black” in the Irish context is one of the most important parts of the movie.
“The Commitments” were made in 1991. I see it as a statement of well-known director Alan Parker. At its core the film is so cheerful and positive and if these layers are scratched away you’ll find activism as concealed message inside. During the movie I cared about the characters, even though I had a feeling that their struggle is resembling the one of Don Quixote. Jimmy Rabbite is alone in his crusade and as all crusaders he’s misunderstood. His upbringing is fairly traditional. In the interesting shot we can see the Pope and the Elvis above the fireplace in their living room. That conflict of traditional and modern is the inner conflict which fuels Jimmy Rabbite and “The Commitments” alike. Every band that ever played and was even a moderate success know that the conflict of the strong egos within the band is imminent. Egos don’t like competition. When “The Commitments” sensed the smell of success everything was in question and the crusade of “the hardest working band in the world” was in question.
Depiction of the Ireland in the nineties is depressing and pessimistic. Dubliners are without hope and the resemblance of Ireland and the Thatcher’s Britain is worrying and symbolic at the same time. The soul is the answer “The Commitments” offered. It was nice to see a portrait of the Catholic Church, which was different of the usual pedophile, molesting story arc so often used in the recent films. The priest in “The Commitments” is the kind of guy who could be with them on the stage in the different circumstances.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Robert Atkins on the screen until now. He was exquisite as Jimmy, and it was fun to see “Star Trek” and “Hell on Wheels” Colm Meaney as his father. I enjoyed the scenes in which Jimmy is interviewing himself and they were good insight into his ambitions for the band. In the before mentioned clash of egos, unfortunately, the manager of the bend is first to face his shortcomings.
“Jameson”, legendary Irish whiskey, had a poll which declared “The Commitments” the best Irish movie of all time. I wouldn’t say so because the competition in that regard is very strong, but Alan Parker certainly made easy going and laughable mix of genres which appeals to the large number of potential viewers. “The Commitments” are more than just fun. They have some very deep messages concealed underneath of all the comedy. It’s rightfully considered a classic.
Therefore, it’s highly recommended to everyone who want something easy and fun to watch. “Irish are the blacks of Europe”. When “the blacks of Europe” discover soul, they will do it in their own way.