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Edward L Sommersett: The Barrytown Trilogy: Snapper, The Commitments and The Van

modern dysfunctional family life

Adversity: the human comedy.

Dublin born Colm Meaney, a stock Irish or Irish American character, is probably more famous for his record appearances as transporter chief Miles Edward O'Brien in different Star Trek series over a period of fourteen different seasons. As Miles O'Brien, Meaney played in the pilots and finales of two different "Star Trek" series.

The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Mohicans

Yet Meaney has enjoyed a diverse career. In the most recent remake of the American classic The Last of the Mohicans, Colm Meaney took on a British persona as Major Ambrose.

In the subject matter at hand Irish Social commentary, Meaney took on a more serious Irish character, the modern Irish head of household. Despite having different names in each movie, Meaney played the same character in each of The Barrytown trilogy, a powerful Irish Social commentary consisting of The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van.

The Snapper


The Barrytown Trilogy: The Snapper (1993) (TV)

Director Stephen Frears * Writer Roddy Doyle (novel - screenplay)

SYNOPSIS: Irish lass Sharon Curley a 20 year old living with her parents and many brothers and sisters comes home pregnant. Although logically Snapper would seem to be legitimately the first in the series, Snapper is the second story in Roddy Doyle's "Barrytown Trilogy", following the adventures of the Rabbitte family. However, as 20th century Fox owned the film rights to the Rabbitte name (from The Commitments), the characters had to be re-named in the subsequent film adaptations (The Snapper, The Van).

Dramatis Personae

Colm Meaney .... Dessie Curley
Tina Kellegher .... Sharon Curley
Ruth McCabe .... Kay Curley
Eanna MacLiam .... Craig Curley
Peter Rowan .... Sonny Curley
Joanne Gerrard .... Lisa Curley
Colm O'Byrne .... Darren Curley
Ciara Duffy .... Kimberley Curley
Picture a Simpsons where Lisa comes home and announces a blessed event that happened after a drunken liason with an unknown older man in a parking lot and decides to keep the wee "tot" and there you have Colm Meaney's snapper.

Unlike Americans gripped in their own self-righteousness, The Irish produce great comedy because they can laugh in even the worst situations.

In a touching portrait of family loyalty and love in the face of small-town scandal and small-minded gossip, Snapper did give rise to much controversy over illegitimacy and family values. But even the Simpsons teaches American legitimacy is one of the world's most questionable state of affairs. It's hard to be judgemental toward the characters in this bittersweet, funny family. Where they may fail in virtue they win in tenacity and endurance.

The Barrytown Trilogy: The Commitments, the Snapper, the Van
The Barrytown Trilogy: The Commitments, the Snapper, the Van

The Barrytown trilogy proves that literature can work without special effects and high speed chases.

Unleashing a constellation of emotions, from rage to sorrow to curiosity about the birth process to exhilaration at the prospect of becoming a granddad, Colm Meaney plays expertly indeed a liberal Irish father at his best and most painful moments in that the erring daughter lived to give birth. The town may buzz with gossip but the family and Meaney outwardly keep a superficial cool. The film ends juxtapositioning the suckling newborn with the new grandpa downing a pint in the local.

The Commitments

Take a group of no-`count Irish losers. Add an American on a mission to bring them soul. And what do they have in common with the sub-culture that produced American gospel and soul: No one wants them around except when they're in the band.

They've made a commitment to bring soul to the pubs of Dublin and they're willing to use every dirty low down (American) trick to do it.

Can they succeed in becoming the Irish version of Soul train?


The Commitments

(1991) Director Alan Parker Writers Roddy Doyle (novel) Dick Clement (screenplay)

SYNOPSIS: Logically The Commitments should be the middle book in Roddy Doyle's Barrytown trilogy. In The Commitments , Jimmy Rabbitte Jr organizes the "World's Hardest Working Band," The Commitments , to bring soul music to the people of Ireland. Director Alan Parker * Writers Alan Parker Writers Roddy Doyle (novel) Dick Clement (screenplay)

Dramatis Personae

Robert Arkins .... Jimmy Rabbitte
Michael Aherne .... Steven Clifford, Piano
Angeline Ball .... Imelda Quirke, Backup Singer
Maria Doyle Kennedy .... Natalie Murphy, Backup Singer
Dave Finnegan .... Mickah Wallace, Drums
Bronagh Gallagher .... Bernie McGloughlin, Backup Singer
FÚlim Gormley .... Dean Fay, Sax
Glen Hansard .... Outspan Foster, Guitar
Dick Massey .... Billy Mooney, Drums
Johnny Murphy .... Joey 'The Lips' Fagan, Trumpet
Kenneth McCluskey .... Derek Scully, Bass
Andrew Strong .... Deco Cuffe
Colm Meaney .... Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr.

The very premise to meld unknown, talented, singers & musicians, with almost no hope of rising above their surroundings into something greater than themselves through great music is touching without becoming prosaically cute. The musical talent is reinforced by the strong character development, dingy industrial setting in North Dublin, and masterful plot. "Say it once, say it loud...I'm black and I'm proud," is never more irreverent than when questionably quoted by Jimmy Rabbite's soul disciples. With quirky characters, Deco Cuffe (Andrew Strong), golden tonselled but insufferably arrogant and childish, graceful Imelda (Angeline Ball), American Joey (Johnny Murphy) "the lips" an old wolf teaching the cubs the art of soul, all squeezed uncomfortably into an Irish Soul band with eyes on stardom, can Jimmy Rabbitte their manager can hold rope of sand together long enough to get them signed. You'll laugh with them as they try to sing in American accents: "Roide [ride] Sally, Roide." But at "Try a Little Tenderness" you'll cry with them when their efforts miscarry.

Richard Harris: Sex, Death and the Movies - An Intimate Biography
Richard Harris: Sex, Death and the Movies - An Intimate Biography

At the verge of making it to the record contract they break down into feuding with each other rather than accomplishing the objective. "The success," philosophizes Jimmy Rabbit Jr, "of the band was irrelevant. You raised their expectations of life, you lifted their horizons. Sure, we could have been successful, & made albums & stuff, but that would have been predictable. This's poetry". Even if the characters in and of themselves may not be very many likable together they are invincible.

Colm Meaney, the hero of the Barrytown trilogy, takes a back seat to Robert Arkins' mission. Yet he plays an important supporting role in The Commitments as Jimmy Rabbitte's Dad, the Elvis fanatic.

With Colm Meaney again in a supporting role, Doyle carried the story of the Rabbitte clan into The Van (1996) the adventures of Bimbo and his best mate who go purchase a fish and chips van (Amer: guts truck). The movie asks: Will the pressures of financial success sour their friendship? Regretabbly this segment of the trilogy did not circulate much in these shores.

Edward L Sommersett is Lord President of The Society.

The Greatest Communicator: What Ronald Reagan Taught Me About Politics, Leadership and Life
The Greatest Communicator: What Ronald Reagan Taught Me About Politics, Leadership and Life

The Van
The Van

The Barrytown Trilogy: Snapper, The Commitments and The Van © 2004 by Edward L Sommersett: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED