Have you ever watched a movie and then watched it over again just for the music? If this is a common occurrence for you, then get your rewinder ready for The Commitments. It’s not often that a movie comes along with a soundtrack as good as this one’s. The music is an integral part of the movie, but it’s not all that makes this movie worth seeing. The cast was put together like a tight fitting puzzle. The writers worked in the necessary comedic elements, while also showing the characters’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s not often you see a movie about music come along where someone doesn’t die, or the same song isn’t played over and over again.
With songs like “Mustang Sally,” the Black Crowe’s’ hit “Hard to Handle,” and “Chain of Fools,” this soundtrack really rocks. It’s hard to believe that Andrew Strong, who played Deco Cuffe in the film, was only sixteen when this movie was made. His voice oozes power and emotion, a feat not easily accomplished by even an experienced singer. He is truly Joey Lang’s Irish counter-part. The group’s rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness” was nothing less spectacular.
The Commitment-etts, played by Angelina Ball, Maria Doyle, and Bronagh Gallagher, added their talents primarily as back-up singers, but they do have some spotlight numbers. Their style, the choreography and harmonies, reminds me of some of the girl groups from the Fifties and Sixties: The Supremes, the Shirrelles, and the Marvelettes. While in the movie ” Chain of Fools” is interrupted by a fight, the girls pull off the performance masterfully.
The Commitments is found in the Drama section at Blockbuster Video, but I found it to be more of a comedy than a drama. When Joey Fagen, played by Johnny Murphy, is introduced, I had a good laugh as he crashed his scooter in the alley. My favorite part of the movie is a conversation between Jimmy Rabbit (Robert Arkins) and his father, played by Colm Meaney. After Jimmy had spoken with Joey at the back gate, his father asked, “What did he want?” Jimmy replied with the answer he had been given, “God sent him.” Mr. Rabbit had to ask again to make sure he heard right, and he got the same answer, to which he replied this time, “On a Suzuki?” It’s not just the dialogue that makes this movie funny. Some of Deco’s onstage antics are notably laugh-worthy: knocking over the Commitment-ettes and electrocuting Outspan (Glen Hansard. The writers even added the “never fails to get a laugh” fart in a small cramped space.
Even with all of his comedic scenes, Deco is more than just comic relief in this movie. For the most part, he is shown as an egotistical jerk. He has a great voice, and he knows it, and the writers let him show it. He even goes as far as saying, “This is my band,” which none of the others take too lightly. Joey is another character with some depth to him. He is the religious one to whom God said, ” The Irish brothers need some soul.” With all of his Bible spouting, Joey’s actions are less than holy. He is the only male member of the band who’s having sex, and it happened to be with each of the Commitment-etts.
Jimmy Rabbit is the band’s manager, and perhaps one of the most complex characters in the film. At first, it seems he believes the band is just another moneymaking scheme. When things started coming together in the group’s performances, I believe he started to see The Commitments as his way to fame. He would hold imaginary interviews with himself, and give the reporters deep-seeming responses when actually interviewed. He had spent two years receiving unemployment benefits, and I think that he wanted more, which where the band fit into his plans.
I wouldn’t say that The Commitments fits into either the Death Watch genre of rock-n-roll films, or the Sex Watch. I think that it may fall into the class of Could Be Big rock-n-roll films. Another film in this category would That Thing You Do, the 1996 Tom Hanks film. These films are alike in many ways. The band members in each film were not well-known actors at the time the films were released. The characters were desperate to get away from the lives they were living and become idols or rock legends. There is mention of the greats in each film. In That Thing You Do they were imaginary bands, while in The Commitments they were actual legends, but the influences to the bands are shown in their music. To Alan Parker, director of The Commitments, you have a wonderful film here. It’s entertaining and inspiring. Not too many movies these days can make you tap your foot; I’ve even caught myself singing “Mustang Sally” in the shower