Starring: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball
Director: Alan Parker
Running Time: 118 mins
The Commitments is an Irish film following Jimmy Rabbitte’s efforts to set up a soul band composed of local musicians in a working class area of Dublin.
I’m not a big music aficionado, and I definitely don’t know anything about soul, so I didn’t expect to be so impressed by The Commitments, but even with my limited music knowledge, I had a fantastic time watching this film. Thanks to some brilliant directing, excellent performances and fantastic characters, this film is a heap of fun to watch from start to finish, featuring great music all along the way.
Let’s start on that very note (if you’ll excuse the awful pun), and talk about how the music works in this film. One of the main points of the story is that this band of misfits is playing soul, a genre that isn’t typically associated with anyone from their background. However, the characters do have a very natural and interesting connection with the genre, which means that when they’re up on stage, the songs are actually very meaningful.
The other really impressive thing is that, whilst music scenes takes up a healthy portion of this film, it never gets tiring. That’s of course due to the various fantastic songs in the soundtrack, but what really sells The Commitments’ musical performances is the passionate acting from across the board, and most of all the brilliant directing by Alan Parker.
Parker manages to make full four-minute concert scenes not only engaging, but hugely entertaining to watch. Rather than solely pointing a camera at a stage, we get to see the whole environment of wherever the band is performing, weaving in and out of close-ups of each of the musicians and getting to see what they’re feeling at the time. It’s a brilliant technique that makes every musical scene brim with energy and life, and also means that the film doesn’t fall into the classic musical trap, because it keeps the story and the characters alive while we listen to a piece of the soundtrack.
The music is an integral part of the film, and the directing makes it even more fun to watch, but for me, the best thing about The Commitments was the characters. It may sound clichéd, but the dynamic that you get with this band of conflicting personalities is so brilliant to watch. On the one hand, you get a dose of drama and tension when you see various characters clashing despite everything going fine on stage, but on the other, the variety of personalities makes this film feel that little bit more colourful and energetic.
Everyone gives an excellent performance here, managing to make their character stand out amongst what is a pretty big lead cast. Even those that aren’t necessarily the main focus of the plot, and often just ride along with the story, are still memorable, which is testament to how good the acting and writing is in this film, but it’s still never a film that totally centres on one person. Yes, we’ve got Jimmy Rabbitte as the lead character, but it’s clear from the off that this is a film that celebrates all the members of the ensemble, which I loved.
Overall, I was really impressed with The Commitments. It’s a musical that keeps itself full of energy and life from start to finish, but provides enough intrigue, laughs and drama to keep you interested all the way through. Its characters, performances and directing are equally fantastic, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.2.