Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Commitments

Year Two, Day 1 - 1/1/10 - Movie #366

BEFORE: I could keep the animated films going, but that's too easy. I took some time to re-organize and re-prioritize my list - and I made note of a bunch of films relating to entertainers, or being famous - I'll start with a look at the music industry and then branch out from there.

Besides, right now it's all about commitment to the project, right? I debated whether to change the numbering system or not for the new year - and arrived on the compromise above, resetting the number of the day, but not the cumulative movie total. This way I can reach #400, #500 etc.

THE PLOT: The travails to form the "World's Hardest Working Band," The Commitments, and bring soul music to the people of Dublin, Ireland.

AFTER: Yeah, I'd heard good things about this film over the years, but still wasn't quite sure what exactly to expect. This turned out to be a great, compact example of the quest for fame - practicing to get it, struggling to maintain it, and then trying desperately to hold on to it, all in the course of one movie.

There's the requisite montage of bad and inappropriate auditions, just like one would see in the first part of a season of "American Idol", as Dubliner Jimmy Rabbitte tries to form a soul band in the middle of a very unlikely place. But soul music is working-class music, so the theory is that it should appeal to the working class of Dublin. So it should just be a matter of finding musicians with the right influences, right?

And to a certain degree it is - I liked seeing footage of the band's early rehearsals, because you really get a feel for the way that the performers start to fit together. I've been in a couple of a cappella singing groups, and I really liked making the arrangements work given the singers we had, and then toying with the balance and the voice parts to get it right.

Once the band comes together, though, it's a struggle to keep going with all the personality conflicts - the bass player gets nervous in front of crowds, the saxophonist secretly wants to play jazz instead of soul, and the trumpet player is sleeping his way through the line of back-up singers. Then the drummer starts arguing with the lead singer, and all bets are off.

The lead singer, Deco Cuffe (Andrew Strong) is really the standout performer in the band. He sits out a few numbers, but none of the girl singers are anywhere close to his talent level, so you definitely feel his absence when he's on break. The guy moves like Joe Cocker and looks like ten kilometers of bad road (no thanks to inferior British dentistry) - but man, the guy can wail. I got chills on a couple numbers, and that doesn't happen often for me.

The film was based on a novel, but the mostly-unknown actors were cast for their musical ability, not their acting ability, which is a nice change of pace, though the accents took a little getting used to - I couldn't understand much of what they were saying in the first 10 minutes, then my ear got accustomed to it and I was fine.

And I was reminded of the film "Big Night", where Louis Prima was supposed to show up at the Italian restaurant - here the trumpet player was supposed to get his old friend Wilson Pickett to show up at one of the band's gigs...but there was a possibility that the trumpet player was, in fact, full of shite.

RATING: 7 out of 10 pints

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