The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle is one of a handful of authors who consistently make me laugh out loud. I don’t think I’m a particularly gloomy person, I just don’t often find the experience of reading laugh-out-loud funny. Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown novels are an exception. Like The Van and The Snapper, The Commitments is a very funny book.

The Commitments is the story of a group of friends who put together a band though they have no business doing so–several of them have no real idea how to play their instruments. But why let that stop you? Through the sheer will of their manager, Jimmy Rabbitte who knows music, The Commitments form, rehearse and become something of a small scale hit. A band with a purpose, The Commitments are dedicated to bringing soul music to Dublin. Ireland, they believe, is a land of soul– it just doesn’t know it yet.

To his credit and the novel’s betterment, Mr. Doyle keeps his story focused on the band. His ensemble of players are fully fledged characters who do have lives outside of the band, but it’s the band we care about and it’s the band Mr. Doyle gives us. No need for pesky subplots in The Commitments. The rehearsal scenes, the gigs, time spent hanging with the band members, are full of overlapping dialogue, jokes, put-downs, gossip, insight, musical references– all the stuff a bunch of people who love what they’re doing even though they don’t really know what they’re doing would talk.  It’s easy to see why a movie based on The Commitments would be a hit.

Maybe I should watch it.



In the years since I first published this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B., I have re-read this book and I plan on re-reading all of the Barrytown books again someday.  But I still have not seen the movie.

7 thoughts on “The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

  1. Ah you have to watch the film. Of the three books it’s the one I would argue works as well as a film as it does as a book, probably because of the music.

  2. I’ve not read the novel, but years ago I did see the movie in a downtown Dublin movie theater. I think it was probably a retrospective showing of the film because a few members of the audience were speaking the lines out loud with the actors as if they had seen it a bunch of times already. I remember the experience mainly because of the setting and the loud audience participation, but still have the impression that it’s a pretty good movie with excellent song choices capably performed.

    1. All right, all right, I’ll watch it. 😉 Probably next week. We’re leaving town tomorrow, but we’ll be back late Saturday. Sounds like a good movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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