When You Have to Play Soul

Have you got soul?" the newspaper advertisement began.

"If so, the World's Hardest Working Band is looking for you. Contact J. Rabbitte, 118 Chestnut St., Barrytown. Rednecks and Southsiders need not apply."

Guitarist Outspan and his bass-playing partner, Derek, are devoted musicians who dream of being in the perfect band. So they enlist a bootleg tape dealer, Jimmy Rabbitte, to create it.

Alan Parker's film The Commitments -- based on Roddy Doyle's novel of the same name -- is the story of Jimmy and his obsession with bringing "soul to the proletariat," and it is a story delivered with a dizzying amount of humor, gusto, and incredible music. The spirited actors and their electrifying musical performances are so wonderful that it is amazing to realize that 10 of the 12 performers have never acted before.

Jimmy, a lifelong resident of Dublin's bleak Northside just like Outspan and Derek, understands the music business better than anyone the two musicians know, and he is even more determined to be a success than they are. (He can't really help it; he's grown up in a house with Elvis' portrait hanging over the pope's and with a father who sings "Can't Help Falling in Love" at the dinner table.)

It takes Jimmy some time to weed out just the right members of the world's yet unnamed "hardest working band." But after enduring hopefuls who play the bagpipes, sing "Les Miserables," and have fluorescent mohawks, he is satisfied with his group.

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