The Commitments Alan Parker

The Commitments Alan Parker
Movies about forming rock bands usually get it painfully wrong. For starters, everyone's way too good looking. Secondly, it's often painfully obvious that the music you hear in the film is recorded by professionals in a studio, not naive wankers learning their instruments. Finally, there's always some schmaltzy ending where the band lands a record deal, jams with their hero or something equally preposterous. The Commitments is the antithesis of this model, although, okay, some of them are pretty hot in their radiant working-class Dublin way. But in general, 1991's The Commitments manages to nail all the universalities about starting a band: the dreams of escape from dreary everyday existence, the drummer/singer conflicts, the idealistic manager trying to convince the self-deprecating band of their worth, the embarrassing early gigs, the sexual tension. Director Alan Parker plucked the cast from open auditions in Dublin and cast the characters based on their musical skills first — only one of the ten young Commitments had any acting experience. Their raw performances are at the core of the film's success, because we believe that they actually are a band, which they are — they recorded the soundtrack and all the vocals were filmed live. Through the course of the film, we watch them become better inch by subtle inch. By the time the movie climaxes with "Try a Little Tenderness" and "In the Midnight Hour," they have been transformed into genuine soul superstars, even though they're unravelling violently backstage. Twelve years after its release, The Commitments is still hilarious, painfully honest, rousing and only occasionally corny. The DVD is well-stocked, with a better than average "making of" featurette, as well as an informative history of the movie's setting in Dublin's gritty north side. Most fascinating is a 45-minute "where are they now?" documentary: the rhythm section is still touring in a band calling itself the Commitments, some are normal day jobbers, some are making their own music — guitarist Glen Hansard leads the Frames, who toured with Calexico last year and just released their debut album for Anti. Parker gives a full commentary with all sorts of interesting tidbits: Van Morrison auditioned for the role of Joey "the Lips" Fagan but was insulted that they weren't using any of his music; Parker oversaw the edited TV version, where he discovered that there are no less than 280 profanities in the movie; and various minor Dublin celebrities can be spotted in small roles, such as Andrea Corr and the kid on the cover of U2's War. And unlike the film itself, real life gave the band a genuine Hollywood ending: they finally got to jam with Wilson Pickett at the L.A. premiere. (Fox)