When the Commitments came out back in 1991, let’s just say I was a pretty young man. In fact, it wasn’t until a few years later that I watched the movie on VHS tape. Yep, I watched some small Irish indie film on my VCR, and at the time, I didn’t think much of it. Then, after living in Ireland for a few years, I began to run into people who would mention that film and even a few people who were in the movie. When they did, I would respond with, “I’ve seen it a long time ago and don’t really remember it.” This became blatantly apparent when I met one of the leading actresses, and she mentioned the film, and I had no idea which character she was. In fact, all I could say about the film is, “it is a film about some musicians.” After that experience, I decided it was time to re-watch The Commitments so that if I encounter one of the stars of the film again, I would know who they are.

the commitments

The Commitments stars Robert Arkins as Jimmy Rabbitte, a young man who has dreams of being a band manager. He is an expert in music and with that, decides to use his knowledge to form a band in the hopes of doing more than collecting his unemployment checks. He opens auditions for the first Irish soul band, and we are introduced to a collection of characters that help bring the north side of Dublin to life. The group begins to form with lead singer Deco Cuffe (Andrew Strong), who’s vulgar mouth is only matched by his ability to nail the music. Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan (Johnny Murphy) the oldest and possibly most experienced member of the band. He also adds the drummer, guitars, sax, and of course the Commit-ets. The three lovely female singers who occasionally outshine Deco.

As plots there isn’t much to the Commitments, but that is okay, because what shines about this film is the music that plays throughout. The band does a stunning job with its renditions of music by Otis Redding, Wilson Picket, and Aretha Franklin. As the group progresses, learning to play together as a band, they also form the dynamics we often hear about of musicians with egos and inter-band relationships. Jimmy does his best to keep them together as he makes deals for equipment, locations to play, and hopefully a music deal that will help get them all out of the inner-city. The conflict within the group comes to a climatic heading one night as the venue is packed and the band is performing at their peak, waiting for Wilson Picket who might or might not be coming to the show.

I’m glad I took the time to re-watch this film. As a guy living in the US just barely out of his teens I didn’t appreciate in the way that a guy now much older and having experienced a few failed dreams appreciates it.