Director: Jason Moore
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine with John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks
Plot: Beca (Kendrick) is an anti-social DJ wannabe who tries her best to avoid college. Then she gets wrapped up in the world of acappella singing.
The moment that first draws you into watching Pitch Perfect is when you realise the unusual amount of fans of this film. On paper, Pitch Perfect is a fluff piece. Packed with pretty people, clinging to the trending hobby of the time (in this case, acappella singing – a few years ago, it was street dance), and thrown into a school/college setting just to round up the cliches, it feels like a rehashed film we have seen before. There is nothing that strikes you as that original about the aesthetics on show here. But Pitch Perfect is a movie that has, without a shadow of a doubt, taken the world by storm. People who don’t like this type of movie, watch these movies. It is a common occurrence to wander into a friend’s testosterone-filled DVD cabinet and find Pitch Perfect nestled between Die Hard 4.0 and Beverley Hills Cop. Everyone loves Pitch Perfect. Therefore, in conclusion, it must be pretty good. The truth is it’s not as good as you think it is going to be.
It is so much better. Excellent, in fact. Let’s hang up on analysing the singing scenes, for the simple reason, as with films tackling a trending hobby, these sequences tend to be categorically decent. Even the worst Step Up movies muster up some solid dance scenes. The truth is that Pitch Perfect is more than a movie studio cashing in on a popular talent show genre. It is a well-rounded narrative movie that takes all of the themes we love in competition movies (the tense rivalries, the team friction, the lead character losing control of their life as the big night draws near), and adds depth to the typical proceedings. Take Anna Kendrick’s Beca. Anna Kendrick has always been the ‘second girl’, the best friend of Twilight, always fighting for screen time, the sister in Scott Pilgrim… Kendrick’s filmography is mostly spent sat in the shadows of great movies (please breeze over the fact I just called Twilight a great movie). Here, she proves that she is worth so much more. Beca is the kind of character that another actress would have fallen back on stereotypes and picked up a juicy pay-check. Kendrick peels back Beca’s father-hating, anti-social, hipster image and picks apart the stepping stones that brought her to this point. She is less a grumpy teen, but a puddle of social anxiety that falls back on her sharp tongue and protective sarcasm to shelter her from the pitfalls of friendships and close bonds. Kendrick’s protagonist is also entirely genuine. There is an easy-going nature to Kendrick’s performing, where it is so much easier to believe as an actress. When she finally gives into a smile when around her love interest, our heart and soul is in that character’s arc. It makes the low points all the more hard-hitting, as we realise how much Beca cares about her current predicament. But while Kendrick shines, a movie of this calibre cannot thrive on being an one-woman show. Teamwork is the word of the day and Pitch Perfect has a strong ensemble cast. The best thing about the character roster on display here is that, unlike other movies of the genre, they do not get in the way. Often you need a large group of actors to kick off a film, but when you reach the finale, you want it to become more personal and intimate, meaning that most movies struggle with too much excess in the closing third. Pitch Perfect finds ways to have fresh, colourful characters yet make them just disposable enough that when it is time to get rid of them, they don’t feel forgotten. Simply no longer a part of the story. The grumpy room-mate character and the stern father figure are constants of this genre, but whereas other films would have shoved them into the ending somewhere, the writers simply let them gracefully bow out when it feels like their time. The same goes for the school DJ, other members of the acappella team… even the hateful but irresistible ‘bad guy’ character is needed for the end, so naturally makes an exeunt. So while Pitch Perfect does occasionally strike you as a film that puts more emphasis in their favourite characters (the main team flesh out five members properly and put a few sparks into the others), it cleverly decides where best to slow down the film. As an end result, when the movie needs to be, it hits a brisk pace that grips constantly.
OK, now we can talk about the singing. Pitch Perfect’s narrative is a strong one, but it is the music that will keep you coming back to this film time and time again. Yes, of course it is amazing. If you are doing a film with the sole intention of showing off the amazing world of acappella singing, at the very least you are going to nail these moments. But the director really goes above and beyond when it comes to just how decent Pitch Perfect’s tracks are. There are so many songs crammed into this movie, a fair argument could be made that this film is more musical than straight comedy. The acappella groups have school tournaments, auditions, gigs, riff-offs (one of the highlights of the movie – and there are many highlights)… there is never not a moment where someone is singing or preparing for the next big number. Characters are defined by their voices. Adam DeVine plays a total monster of a character, needlessly cruel and wrapped up in his only talent, but his singing voice and charisma on stage is so hypnotic that you genuinely want the character to succeed in the competitions, so you get to see him perform one more time. But in a film that pushes songs so much, it is also a surprise that these moments don’t get stale. Surely there is a time when you roll your eyes at the same tunes being rolled out, like a TV talent show that has had one too many seasons. But Pitch Perfect constantly finds new ways to entertain. The clever quirk of the movie is that the leading acappella band, the Bellas, are so focused on their traditional, stock songs that they don’t try anything new. It is a smart decision, because while we understand why they are causing their own downfall, their music isn’t necessarily bad, just uninventive. It means that when we are listening to their style of music, it remains entertaining, despite apparently being “bad”. The songs really take off when Beca uses her DJ knowledge to blend songs in. Some of the mash-ups in Pitch Perfect are outstanding and I appreciate any movie that recognises talent in both singing and the art of Djing (most people applaud one, criticise the other). Finally, who didn’t fall in love with Anna Kendrick when she pulls out the iconic ‘Cup Song’? Pitch Perfect is a movie that has your feet tapping long after it has rolled to a close, but is so much more than a fluff movie about singing. It is… well… pitch perfect.
Final Verdict: There is a line in the film that applauds perfect endings. Truthfully, Pitch Perfect has a perfect beginning and middle to go alongside it.