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Film: The Commitments
Have you got soul?

They Had Absolutely Nothing. But They Were Willing To Risk It All.

The Commitments is a 1991 film based on a Roddy Doyle book of the same title, the first in his Barrytown Trilogy, which tells of the adventures of the Rabitte family, working class residents of north-side Dublin. Set in Dublin in the late 1980s, it tells the story of Jimmy Rabitte, an unemployed music aficionado who despairs of the Irish music and decides to form his own soul band; the Commitments. Gathering together a motley band of amateur musicians and guided by the mysterious trumpeter Joey "The Lips" Fagan, they set out to bring Soul to Dublin. Hilarity Ensues.


This movie features examples of:
  • Adaptation Distillation: Thanks to the involvement of Roddy Doyle, the film is generally well-regarded by fans of the novel, even though it does alter the ending a bit.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Mickah "Don't Fuck With Me" Wallace, who started off as the band's bouncer. His predecessor, Billy Mooney, even had "the Animal" for his stage name and cited the original Animal as his main influence.
  • Ass Shove: Billy threatens Deco with this treatment.
    Billy: And you... George Michael. You ever call me a fuckin' eejit again, you'll go home with the drumsticks stuck up your hole... the one you don't sing out of.
    Deco: That'll be the day.
    Billy: I'm tellin' ya it's coming, so keep your Vaseline handy.
  • The Cast Showoff: The actors playing the Commitments were mostly chosen for their musical talents, Robert Arkin (Jimmy Rabitte) included (he gets to demonstrate his singing in a bonus song included on the DVD and the soundtrack album).
  • And the Adventure Continues: While the film has a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, the book ends with Jimmy, Outspan, Derek and Mickah getting together to form a new group a couple of weeks later, unperturbed by the breakup of the Commitments. However, in The Snapper Jimmy has started to try his luck as a DJ.
  • Berserk Button: "WE'RE NOT YER BLEEDIN' GROUP, RIGHT!"
    • Also featured in this exchange:
    Jimmy: Elvis is not soul.
    Mr. Rabbitte: Elvis is God!
    Jimmy: I never pictured God with a fat gut and a corset singin' "My Way" at Caesar's Palace!
    Mr. Rabbitte: Jaysis Christ!
    Mrs. Rabbitte: Don't upset your father!
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Lampshaded. Deco is such an obnoxious, unpleasant human being but also an amazing singer.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: according to the Parents' Guide on imdb.com, there are 250 occurences of fuck and its derivatives in this movie.
  • Dawson Casting: Inverted in the case of Andrew Strong, who played Deco. He was sixteen when The Commitments was filmed but was selected for the role because his singing voice sounded older. One of his anecdotes in the DVD "Making of" featurette involved a listener estimating his age as twenty-one based on his voice alone.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most characters (the entire population of Dublin, if Roddy Doyle's writing is to be believed), but Jimmy is almost the personification of this trope.
  • Defictionalization: Some of the stars of the film toured under the Commitments name.
  • Doing It for the Art: While Jimmy gives this impression, he does want the group to be successful. Joey Fagan is in it purely for his love of soul music.
  • '80s Hair: Though the film was released in 1991, 80s styles hadn't faded just yet. A prime example is Dean's fabulous pompadour-mullet.
  • Fat Bastard: Deco.
  • Good Times Montage: To the strains of "Nowhere to Run," the members of the newly formed Commitments are shown rehearsing individually, all enjoying themselves and soaking up soul music. In particular, the girls are shown laughing and practicing their dance moves in the street amid a maze of hanging laundry.
  • Hatedom: In the novel, the typically reserved Joey Fagan drops a Cluster F-Bomb only once, when he rants about Dean listening to Jazz records. In the movie, this aversion is transferred to Jimmy.
  • Hidden Depths: In the novel Mickah starts off as a the band's Psycho for Hire bouncer, but later on turns out to be knowledgable about music, asks to be the new drummer (in the film he was drafted in because nobody else was available) and has his own stage name in mind. At the end of the book he even becomes the lead singer of Jimmy's new group.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: A montage (set to "Too Many Fish in the Sea") shows these appearing at Jimmy's door as he's trying to recruit his band. Jimmy asks each one who his/her influences are, then promptly slams the door in his/her face upon receiving their responses: "Barry Manilow," "Sinead O'Connor," "Wings...Bachman-Turner Overdrive?" "U2?" An apparent Boy George wannabe doesn't even get to name his influence.
    • The only one brought in from this round is Dean, the saxophonist, because he says he's influenced by "Clarence Clemons and the guy from Madness."
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: When the band are traveling in a chip van, some passers-by ask if they have any rock salmon. They reply "Sorry, we only have soul!" Get it... sole/soul...
  • Intercourse with You: Jimmy explains that nearly all soul music fits this trope.
  • Jerk Ass: A lot of the characters come across this way, but Deco stands out in particular.
  • Kavorka Man: Joey Fagan. Then again, in the novel Imelda explains that she and the other girls had a bet on to see who could get it on with him first.
  • Match Cut: An odd one in the "Nowhere to Run" sequence. The shot, which starts with three dangling pig carcasses in the butcher shop where bassist Derek is practicing, transitions to Natalie, Bernie, and Imelda as they practice singing and dancing outdoors.
  • The Mentor: Joey the Lips (literally, in some cases; he has to teach a few band members how to play their instruments properly).
  • Miles Gloriosus: In the film, Joey claims to have played with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and an array of famous soul artists, although he doesn't have much evidence. At the end of the film he disappears, leaving a postcard explaining he is on tour with the long-dead Joe Tex. This is less ambiguous in the novel, where he is able to provide photographs of himself playing with Otis Redding and others and quickly departs at the conclusion because he was tricked into thinking he's impregnated one of the girls, the climax of a sub-plot not included in the film.
  • Mythology Gag: The film has a few shout outs to parts of the novel not included in the adaptation. For example, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue shows that Bernie has joined a country band called the Brassers and Mickah is the lead singer in a punk group. In the novel, Jimmy, Outspan and Derek start up a country-punk group called the Brassers with Mickah as the lead vocalist.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Jimmy's aforementioned new band in the novel, which combines Punk Rock with traditional Irish country music.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: In the novel, Derek never quite becomes as skilled as the other musicians in the group. In the film, all of the main cast members were talented musicians, so the trope is less prevalent, but he briefly falls out with Outspan over it during the massive band meltdown that takes place backstage during their last gig.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Mickah. (That's him in the white tank top above.)
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: In the novel, Joey rages about black jazz musicians who he thinks are betraying their race by playing "wanker's music" to white audiences and proclaims that his greatest regret is not being born black. The band are also concerned that they might be "too white" to play soul. Jimmy allays their fears thus:
    "The Irish are the blacks of Europe, Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland and north-side Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. Say it once, say it loud loud, I'm black and I'm proud."
  • Psycho for Hire: Mickah, the second drummer, who is initially hired as the band's bouncer. Jimmy thinks he ought to be locked up.
  • Right on Queue: The scene in which Jimmy recruits the band ends with one guy who wasn't auditioning. He just saw everyone else lined up and assumed they were selling drugs.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The film essentially demonstrates what happens when you try to get ten Ted Baxters together and start up a band.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Necessary because, as Jimmy explains, "All the best Sixties bands started with a 'The'."
  • Spiritual Sequel: The Book was part of an actual trilogy with The Snapper and The Van. Due to rights issues, the films only form a very loose trilogy with names changed and the only common link being Colm Meaney as the father of the main family.
    • The film Once can also be seen as this. In The Commitments, Outspan ends up busking on the streets of Dublin. Cut ahead 20 years and Once starts with Glen Hansard busking on the streets of Dublin, and his character in Once isn't given a name.
  • The Power of Rock: Well, the Power of Soul in this case.
  • Twin Telepathy: Jimmy's twin sisters (who made their first appearance in the second book of the trilogy) have this going on.
  • What Could Have Been: The film-makers considered getting Rory Gallagher or Van Morrison to play Joey Fagan.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Played straight, showing where every band member ended up.
  • Word Salad Lyrics and Word Salad Philosophy: the lyrcs of Whiter Shade of Pale are laughed at in the last few lines of the film:
    Jimmy: Well, Terry, it's like I always say; we skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels on the floor, I was feeling kind of seasick but the crowd called out for more.
    Jimmy (as Terry Wogan): That's very profound, Jimmy! What does it mean?
    Jimmy: I'm fucked if I know, Terry.
  • X Meets Y: It's a bit like The Blues Brothers if they were all from North Side Dublin.

Closet LandFilms of the 1990sCool as Ice
Les ChoristesMusic StoriesCrazy Heart

alternative title(s): The Commitments
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