It's difficult to convey the deranged insanities of the rock experience: Rob Reiner managed it in This Is Spinal Tap and made us laugh. It's even harder to encapsulate that brief time when the crap falls away and group harmony prevails, as Alan Parker did in The Commitments. To do both is nearly a miracle; in Brian Gibson's film, with screenplay by comedy survivors Clement and La Frenais (who also scripted Parker's film), a first-rate cast and an assortment of musical talents pull off this race with the amplified devil. Strange Fruit are a late '70s middle league rock outfit seeking to re-form in the nervous late '90s; Robin Hood meets TV's Auf Wiedersehen Pet as Nighy's struggling solo artist reunites with Spall's tax-dodging drummer and Nail's bass-playing roofer. Through thin, thin, thin and a bit of thick, the lads try to rekindle the flame, propped up by Juliet Aubrey's long suffering manager and Connolly's Zappa-esque roadie. The jokes are good, the music loud, but what makes the film so special is that it tells you why you ever bought an album or queued for ten hours in the rain to see Alice Cooper.
Cast and crew
Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
Stephen Rea Billy Connolly Jimmy Nail Timothy Spall Bill Nighy Juliet Aubrey Phil Daniels Frances Barber Phil Davis