Set in a working-class area of Dublin, young Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins
), a local promoter, is a man with a vision to bring soul music to Dublin. His friends, Derek (Kenneth McCluskey) and Outspan (Glen Hansard
) ask him to manage their band and Jimmy agrees, but only on his terms. He places an ad in the local paper that simply reads, "Have you got soul? If so, the World's Hardest Working Band is looking for you." Jimmy brings together an unlikely group of young people to play rhythm and blues cover versions of black soul singers, and The Commitments are born.
The initial learning process involves watching old James Brown performances and the all-white band collectively chanting, "I'm black and I'm proud!" Of the band's new members, two stand out as inspired discoveries. Deco (Andrew Strong) is a loutish chauvinist with a true soul voice, but unfortunately, his fondness for hogging the limelight soon brings him into conflict with the other band members. Joey "The Lips" Fagan (Johnny Murphy) is an aging trumpet player who travels everywhere on a moped. He claims to have played for many American soul legends, but his fellow musicians are more than a little skeptical about his stories. Egos clash and expectations of fame and fortune start to tear them apart. Soon, their success on stage is overshadowed by the off-stage rivalry, not in the least helped by Joey, who seduces all three female backup singers. The band members struggle with each other to become a tight, fine band, at least for one night.