I don’t know anybody who was not charmed to the cotton socks by the film version of Roddy Doyle‘s Dublin-based musical fantasy, The Commitments, where a talented group of working class heroes aim to become “the hardest working band in the world” under the management of chancer Jimmy Rabbitte.
More than that, thanks to Alan Parker‘s sure-footed direction, energising performances from a largely unknown cast, a joyful script by Doyle, Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement, plus excellent choice of classic soul & blues songs on the soundtrack played by the band/cast, it was a winning combination. It launched the music career of the astonishing singer Andrew Strong and became so well loved that a stage musical version was inevitable.
John Carney‘s Sing Street occupies much the same space, and while I’m classing it as a musical, really it isn’t. It is also set in Dublin against a backdrop of Irish morals and gritty family lives and the infamous Christian Brothers‘ approach to education, with the one difference that the music is in the New Wave/New Romantic synthpop bracket. The original songs are OK but not memorable, but then as I say, this is not really a musical anyway.
No accident that the eponymous school band featured in Sing Street, perhaps, like the Commitments, rather more musically skilled and polished than a real-life street band might prove, starts by idolising Duran Duran – as did many more in the 80s. No doubt plenty of readers are old enough to have gone through a flirtation with Ultravox, Visage, Human League, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, OMD and the like.
“New Romantics?” I hear you ask. You must remember, no matter how hard you try to forget! The successor to glam rock – swish synth post-punk pop songs sung by androgynous bands of unfeasibly thin pretty people wearing garish psychedelic clothes, extravagant makeup and bouffant hairdos held up by copious quantities of hair gel, whose philosophy on life is described here as happy/sad – though for me “po-faced and self-absorbed” might be a better description.
But back to movies: also like The Commitments, Sing Street is amusing, charming, well played at every level and designed to be emotionally engaging, even if rather too obvious and derivative to be a truly memorable. From my perspective the music was never my thing anyway, but on its own merits, as a movie, Sing Street succeeds admirably.
Fact is that SS is not an adaptation or a me-too copy though; quite the reverse – writer/director John Carney’s very personal, maybe even semi-autobiographical memories are recounted in the script. It’s just a shame for Carney that it was preceded by such a definitive and much-loved movie.