It’s strange how popular movies can just disappear from the culture after a while.
Last year I had a yen to revisit The Commitments, the late Alan Parker’s 1991 film about the brief rise and even more rapid fall of a working-class soul band in Dublin, Ireland.
It shouldn’t have been a big ask; The Commitments was a massive hit (well, everywhere outside the US) when it was released, pulling in big bucks, spawning two soundtrack albums and a brief, broader soul revival and setting the mould for populist Irish and British big screen comedies for years to come (Brassed Off, The Full Monty, and so on, all the way to Sing Street). The fictional band – or some variation thereof – still tours. There was the inevitable stage musical.
But no sign of the film – it was absent from the streaming services, not available to purchase digitally, and the disc was out of print. Hopes dashed, I spent a year in mourning only for The Commitments to hove into view, completely unheralded, at SBS On Demand. And I am here to tell you, brothers and sisters, that it has lost none of its heart, soul and guts.
It’s a simple story. Based on the 1987 debut novel by Roddy Doyle and set in Dublin’s hardscrabble northside neighbourhoods, The Commitments centres on would-be music promoter Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins), who hits upon the idea of forming a soul band.