Striking Out Series 2 Review

  • Series Title: Striking Out
  • Season: Series 2
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: RTE (Ireland)
  • Cast: Amy Huberman, Emmet Byrne, Neil Morrissey, Rory Keenan, Maria Doyle Kennedy
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD (R1, NTSC)

Striking Out Series 2 picks up where Series 1 left off, with Ray in jail and Tara suddenly evicted from her new office – as well as Pete losing his coffee shop. Tara joins forces with an experienced solicitor, George Cusack (also a woman), and barrister, Vincent Pike, and together they get Ray out of jail and out on bond. Meg regrets setting up Ray so she gives evidence to George that the Guarda who arrested Ray were acting outside their remit (police district) and calling into question additional bogus charges (resisting arrest, intent to distribute drugs, hard drug possession (Ecstasy and others). However, the series never seems to change Ray’s status from “out on bond” to anything else.

Tara and George end up sharing an office. It’s cozy, small, messy, smoky, and there isn’t much privacy, especially for two solicitors working on separate cases. This causes the occasional problem throughout the season. George is tough, but barely making it as a solicitor – so she has to take the cases and clients she can get, similar to Tara. Tara meanwhile is trying to specialize in family law, but she has to take whatever clients she can.

Vincent is heading an official inquiry into a cost-overrun scam on a new hospital building. The company that won the bid to build the hospital did so with the lowest bid. But as the hospital was being built it ran into significant cost overruns. These costs actually pushed the hospital construction budget to higher than the highest bid. Also, several government ministers seem to have personally profited from the deal, and Dunbar’s – Tara’s old firm seems to be involved in the whole scheme. As the season develops, Vincent and his inquiry have successes and failures. Watching Vincent at his best (and worse) is fascinating.

Tara is still struggling, but once Ray is out of jail and she’s found a new office, she’s doing OK. She starts taking information from Meg again – even though she should know she can’t trust Meg after she got Ray arrested and herself evicted. Tara also dumps Pete (the coffee shop guy) and starts dating. She becomes very close to Sam, Eric’s younger brother. Tara is also now friends, but not romantic with Eric. It’s fascinating to watch Tara’s legal cases, but I found her romantic encounters less interesting. Yes, she needs to move on from Eric – but taking up with his brother? Bad move. Especially when Sam is a lot more involved in Dunbar’s shenanigans than he lets on.

Still, I love this series! Tara is someone you can root for, and she’s grown since last season, even though she still can be a bit too naive and trusting (especially for a lawyer). I miss Pete from last season – he seemed like a good guy, but I liked George, she’s lots of fun. Dublin and the surrounding areas look beautiful and like other series (Shetland especially) Striking Out balances the beauty and even glitz of city and country life with people just being horrible to each other. Tara is a solicitor not a barrister, so it’s seldom criminal cases (and if one of her clients ends up in court she needs to get a barrister to help her) but some of the family law cases are brutal. The series has also opened up more visually – last season there were a lot of frames within frames within frames, which visually underscored the trap Tara was in – this season as she’s grown, so has her world, and it’s beautiful.

I highly recommend Striking Out, and I sincerely hope there is a third series.

Read My Review of Striking Out Series 1.

The Commitments

  • Title: The Commitments
  • Director: Alan Parker
  • Date: 1991
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox, Beacon Communications Inc
  • Genre: Musical, Drama
  • Cast: Colm Meaney, Andrew Strong, Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle, Bronagh Gallagher, Johnny Murphy
  • Format: Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“It has to be ‘The’ something — all the best 60s bands were ‘The’ something.” — Jimmy Rabbitte

“The Irish are the Blacks of Europe, and the Dubliners are the Blacks of Ireland, and the Northside Dubliners are the Blacks of Dublin.” — Jimmy Rabbitte (explaining to the band why they’re going to play “Dublin soul”)

I love this movie! The music, Motown, Blues, and Soul – is great, both in the background and the numbers that The Commitments actually sing. The movie is told from the point of view of Jimmy, an Irish teenager / young 20-something who is fascinated by the music business and wants to get out of the poverty he’s living in. However, rather than pulling at the heartstrings, or telling Jimmy’s story in a sad way – Jimmy tells his own story by interviewing himself, answering questions from the unseen or heard “Terry”, like he’s become the success he’s always envisioned.

The film starts with Jimmy deciding to form a band – he puts an ad in the paper and starts gathering up a group of people for the band – mostly people he knows, some who come to him, and even a few he’s heard sing – at weddings, in church, etc, and puts together the band. However, the montage sequence of the open auditions is hilarious – singers, musicians, and front bands – people of all descriptions show up at his house and just start singing or naming their “influences”. It’s great.

The band begins to come together and Jimmy invites in a girl he knows, her friend who he thinks is gorgeous, and the two bring a third friend – becoming the back-up singers or “Commitment-ettes”.  They also get to perform several Motown-inspired numbers in the film (think Aretha Franklin or Diana Ross and the Supremes). He also finds an incredible lead singer, Deco Cuffe (Andrew Strong), who’s rude and dirty-mouthed, but can really sing. He also finds a sax player, drum player, and piano player. Finishing out the band is a trumpet player who’s old enough to be the father to most of the people in the group – but claims to have played with all the greats, even the Beatles. Jimmy believes in all of Joey Fagan’s stories.

First rehearsing over a pool hall, then slowly getting gigs, things seem to be building up to a slow rise to success. Their first gig is a community center – which falls apart when the overly-excited Deco somehow manages to cause an electric explosion on the “stage”. As a result, Derek needs a run to the E/R, but ends up OK and unhurt.

Each gig seems to get better and better – but tensions erupt between members of the band. At their best gig, as the group sounds their most professional, and an agent even approaches Jimmy to sign them with a small record label – the personal conflicts boil over. When Wilson Pickett fails to show to jam with the group, like everyone was depending on, and Joey had said would happen, it all falls apart.

In the end, unlike other films with this type of structure – The Commitments don’t become the next big thing. They don’t even become a small success, everything falls apart. What makes the film great is its unpredictability, and it’s sense of atmosphere. These kids are poor, the poorest of the poor – thus Jimmy’s statement about the Irish being the “Blacks of  Europe”, and as working-class poor kids, music is one of the few ways out. And that doesn’t even work for this group of misfits who just have bad luck. Something happens at each of their gigs, until the final one features some of the best music – and some of the worst personal interaction, as the girls are all fighting because Joey’s slept with all of them, the drummer and Deco can’t stand each other, the saxophonist would rather play jazz, etc.

Finally, there is a lot of humor in the film, too. The description may sound grim, but it isn’t a grim movie. I enjoyed it – and I continue to enjoy it where ever I see it. There are lots of quips and even character humor. For example, Colm Meaney, Jimmy’s Da, is an Elvis fan – his reactions to the “auditions” are priceless.

And everywhere and everyone in the film is playing music or singing or dancing – from the granny with her violin, to Meaney singing “Unchained Melody”, to traditional Irish songs sung or played by street musicians. The background music that’s mostly Motown is also fantastic, as is the music actually sung by The Commitments.

This is an Irish movie, filmed completely in Ireland, yet the Irish teenagers, especially Jimmy, the band’s manager, love Motown and identify with the rhythm of Soul. It’s also great fun. The characters are sharply drawn and sympathetic. The music is great. The background Motown/blues/soul music is excellent. The music sung by The Commitments is also excellent. And the storyline really sings.

Musical Numbers

Mustang Sally
Too Many Fish in the Sea
Mr. Pitiful
Bye Bye Baby
Show Me
Take Me to the River
The Dark End of the Street
Hard to Handle
Chain of Fools
Mustang Sally
I Never Loved a Man
Try a Little Tenderness
In The Midnight Hour

Recommendation:  See It
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Dante’s Peak