The Commitments (1991)

Dir. Alan Parker

I know Penny said she loved this when she first saw this, but I don’t think she would like it now if she saw it (although she probably would like it more than me.) Probably other idiots wouldn’t rate this so low, but I don’t think they would like this either. Even Larri didn’t care for this.

There’s good reason for her not liking this. The filmmakers either don’t 1.) care about a good story or intereresting characters; 2.) don’t know how to build a drama. If I gave the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, I would say it was the former. Continuing along this train of thought, I would say the filmmakers felt like the music–particularly the fact that these Irish musicians could play convincing soul music–would be enough to carry the film. The music is good, but they’re basically cover versions whose primary distinction is that they’re being made by white Europeans. (”Wow, can you believe those Irish kids singing black soul music!”) That’s just not enough to impress me, personally. If I want to hear that kind of music, I’d go to the originals.

I think a lot of the idiots here would not find the music so good as to overcome the lack of story or character development. The movie starts pretty quickly with the appearance of Jimmy (Robert Arkins), a young lad with ambitions to start a soul band. The filmmakers do little to establish his relationship with his friends, especially why they would choose to follow him as their leader. Arkins is likeable enough as Jimmy, but he doesn’t have the natural charisma or charm that would instantly convince audiences that others would follow him. I also must add that Jimmy’s passionate speeches about soul-music were rather hollow, too. The filmmakers needed to do more to show how and why Jimmy was loved the music and why it would connect to his friends. But as I alluded to earlier, the filmmakers don’t seem interested in that.

Another problem was the assembly and development of the band. The memebers come together pretty quickly and accept for some comic audtions (which weren’t that funny), Jimmy seems to face little challenges–which would have made this part interesting–putting together the band. The same can be said with the development of the band. Usually in movies like this, we see the band struggle to develop; they go through some adversity to develop as a group. While they go through difficulties (they’re cliched difficulties of a rock band–romance between members and the problems arise; the growing ego of the lead singer, money problems, etc.), they don’t really involve the difficulties of the music. The bands first rehearsal doesn’t sound that different from the later performances. (This is partly what I mean by lacking skill in developing a sense of drama.)

The different conflicts that arise don’t work very well because the filmmaker does little to develop the characters–their backstory, previous relationship with each other, etc.–so when conflicts occur I think audiences won’t have the emotional investment for the scenes to work. In some ways the conflicts that arise and the way they’re shot feel more like a documentary, think of a straight version of This is Spinal Tap. But the situations are so cliche and hollow of any dramatic/emotional interest that I just didn’t care. The best thing about the film is the music, but, as I said, even that’s not enough to carry the film.

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