Pitch Perfect (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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Pitch Perfect was a lot of things I never expected it to be. Serving itself up as both an antidote to the melodramatic antics of television's "Glee" while also grafting on more collegiate cliches than one cares to count, it's a movie that mixes pointed satire and a lugubrious goofiness to a remarkable degree.

Besides being about a great deal of acappella (warning: something you should at least be able to tolerate before entering the theater), Pitch Perfect pokes gently at the misogyny of the college world. Using the world of collegiate acappella as a background allows director Jason Moore to get swipes in at Title IX inequalities while also stressing the beauty of creating something together.

It all comes down to collaboration-- to finding the ideal formula, to balancing temperaments, to mixing the right music.

The almost sing song shot.

Compare the female musical group, The Bellas, to the male Trebble Makers. The Bellas spend the movie attempting to be the only all-girls group to win the state. The Makers, on the other hand, have the country in their be-bopping hands. The difference between the boy's popular performances and the girl's aren't that the boys eschew tired and true staples-- in fact, both groups use heavy amounts of tired 80's and 90's pop hits to fill out their sets-- but that the girls' music doesn't make heavy use of cross melodies and remixing.

Taken with their stewardess uniforms that reek of the Pan Am era, and you begin to get what's going on-- the Bellas are so focused on being the feminine ideal they're shooting themselves in their collective feet. It's only when a new year arrives and they recruit for talent rather than looks that the Bellas' ring leader, Aubrey (Anna Camp), begins to come to terms that pretending that they're still in the 1950's isn't going to do anyone any good.

The instigator of this change is Beca (Anna Kendrick), a college freshman who's still hurting from her parent's divorce. She's retreated inwardly, remixing music as her creative outlet and her desire to be a DJ is only subservient to her demanding father, a comparative lit professor if ever there was one. She joins the group with disdain but develops actual fondness for the rest of the band of misfits and they clash their way to the championship.

Me right now IRL

Yes, it's an underdog story. Yes, it's a 'freshman kids get hazed at college' story. And, yes, it's even got a couple of romances bubbling in the background for the prerequisite climactic kiss.

However, the movie knows that they're juggling cliches. Like Easy A from a few years back, the movie takes its time to constantly deflate the stale genres it's treading water in. Unlike Easy A, though, it doesn't hold itself above the experience and doesn't resort to smarmy condescension whenever genuine emotions emerge.

Speaking of smarmy condescension, the Bellas' proclivities at acappella are measured by a pair of announcers, Gail and John (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins). The duo revel in the comedic low road of making non sequitur remarks, but also serve to reinforce the public's view of the Bellas: they're women trying to make it in a man's world, and that's a grave offense. When the Bellas do succeed (hey, they do), they make it as a combination of male and female abilities, of different races, sexualities and vices. They succeed because they've figured out how to fit their differences together.

Here are the Bellas' enemies, the Trebbles. I like how they sit in a hot tub together and apparently just watch a video of two women passively do housework in their underwear; it goes to show how completely detached they are from real sexuality and femininity in general.

And, needless to say, this wouldn't matter if the movie wasn't funny as hell. Besides making fun of "Glee", it gets a lot of mileage out of its characters who range from uptight to insane to deranged.

Comedienne Rebel Wilson, the chubby British woman with white hair who has been improvising her way through movies like What to Expect When You're Expecting and Bridesmaids, shines here, finding a better fit in being the self depreciating girl who always tells the truth.

Anna Kendrick is the lead and finds a good balance between angst and bemused antagonism. Beca's love of remixes again drives home the film's points about how putting things together makes them work better. She gets a nice arc where she learns to open up to people, but only after she punches a man in the face.

I think that's a pretty important moment in the movie. And not just because it looks like it would hurt.

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Posted by Danny

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  1. It plays around with its premise and idea in a goofy and fun way, but never fully comes around and takes us by surprise. Still, you’ll have a good time regardless. Nice review.

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