A Review of Pitch Perfect, directed by Jason Moore (2012)
by REBECCA, October 15, 2012
Way back in July, as you may remember, I reviewed Step Up Revolution. Before the movie, I saw a preview for Pitch Perfect, which excited me to no end because a.) a cappella; b.) Anna Kendrick; c.) a cappella. So, in my review of Step Up Revolution, I mentioned that it terrified me to learn that Anna Kendrick could sing in addition to her ridiculous skills of subtle, awkward comedy because it seemed to find her poised to take over the world. Now, nearly three months older and wiser than I was when I wrote that review, I have learned that not only can Anna Kendrick sing, she is a Tony-nominated musical performer. To summarize: hot damn, Anna Kendrick.
Anyhoo, back to the movie (which is loosely based on a non-fiction study of competitive college a cappella groups by GQ editor Mickey Rapkin). In Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick plays Beca, a reluctant college freshman with a chip on her shoulder (divorced parents, poor dove) who really just wants to move to L.A. and be a music producer. She reluctantly joins the Bellas, an all-female a cappella group on campus, to satisfy her father’s promise that if she’ll just try and join in then he’ll help her move to L.A. at the end of the year if she still hates college. Beca produces awesome mashups and remixes of songs, but Aubrey, the type A leader of the Bellas, resists change, insisting on using the same tired songs they used last year. Pitch Perfect follows the Bellas through the stages of competition until finally, before the finals, the group decides to let Beca remix them into a triumphant climactic performance.
I really enjoyed the movie, even though the only other two people in the theatre were TALKING THE ENTIRE TIME WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE THE WORLD IS ENDING IT’S A MOVIE THEATRE SERIOUSLY I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. In spite of a nonsensical Stand By Me pie-eating-scene vomit gag and some questionable jokes, Pitch Perfect is definitely a solid entry into the young-people-develop-senses-of-self-through-competitive-art-making genre. It’s basically a white, a cappella version of 2007′s Stomp the Yard. I’m really interested in why all these movies that are really about finding and expressing yourself through art are framed around winning a competition for that art. Like all such movies, Pitch Perfect is really about Beca and the other Bellas learning to be confident in themselves despite parents’ pressure, social pressure, and the douchebaggery of their rival all-male a cappella group.
I liked Anna Kendrick in this, mostly because she’s so understated in the way she plays Beca, who isn’t really all that likeable, even though she’s quite talented. I liked how she wanted to produce music rather than be a rock star or a singer. Sidebar: I’m a Rebecca, and as someone who has made a 30-year study of the name, I feel confident asserting that 99.7% people either spell it Rebecca or Rebekah. Therefore, there is no reasonable explanation for the excision of Beca’s second c. Her father is a professor of comparative literature who teaches his daughter German; therefore I refuse to believe that he named her Rebecca and spelled it Rebeca. That would be ridiculous. So, I turn it over to you, Jason Moore, director of Pitch Perfect who also directed three episodes of Dawson’s Creek: why?
One thing that actually kind of stood out about Pitch Perfect, in contrast to other similars, was that it’s quite funny. It was written by Kay Cannon who writes for 30 Rock and New Girl, and there were some definite moments of hilarity (but not the puking—why the puking?). Notable among these are the character of Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), who speaks so softly she can barely be heard, but says things like, I set fires to feel alive; and Beca’s roommate who hates her. The always-wonderful Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins, as the a cappella competition announcers were also a highlight (“Nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sings like a boy”). There is a character who goes by Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) who makes a lot of fat jokes but seems to be pretty confident. I couldn’t tell, honestly, where the film came down in terms of fat phobia; the line between people laughing at her and laughing with her is definitely walked, but in a way that I at least found intriguing. I’d be curious to know what others thought about her characterization.
Pitch Perfect took a little too long to get on board with Beca’s arrangements, so it misses a few chances to present what I was really there to see: awesome mashups and arrangements of songs. Indeed, the best scene—a kind of riff-off version of the improv game “Freeze,” where a category is chosen and each a cappella group tries to riff off the choice of the other, was delightful, but all too brief. Pitch Perfect had it’s Glee-esque moments of portraying the other competitors as cartoonish (a group called the Sock-a-pellas that sing with sock puppets), but it worked with the tone of the film, which is part absurdist one-liners and part running gags. The characterizations feel a bit thin and Beca’s friendship/romance with rival a cappella-er, Jesse, a little unnecessary. Still, while Pitch Perfect may not be, it still mostly rocks (there, that was it—my “pitch perfect” pun, since everyone else is doing it; I hope you enjoyed it). Now, how about them Whiffenpoofs?