Pitch Perfect (2012)
Dir: Jason Moore
One of my friends while watching this said that “you need to like ‘Glee’ to enjoy this”. I would have to disagree, I think you could enjoy it regardless of being a Gleek or not.
Beca (Anna Kendrick) is an aspiring DJ, but goes off to university at her lecturer father’s request, and somewhat reticently enters into the world of acapella choirs, of which there are 4 in her uni, the most competitive of which are the all-male and incredibly popular Treblemakers, and hers, the all-female Barden Bellas. However personality clashes within groups, and the rivalry between the choirs leads to fierce competitions both musically and personally.
Comparisons to Glee could either be taken as a compliment, or possibly an insult, depending on how you view Glee and which seasons of it you are referring to. I personally really enjoyed the show at the beginning, it was so fresh and different, with some excellent characters and brilliantly memorable lines. From the very beginning before it had even aired on TV here in the U.K. I had posted on this blog that it would be one to watch out for, and look how right I was just a few months later. Sadly now though I feel it’s gone somewhat downhill, with far more ‘filler’ episodes that end up re-treading the same material over-and-over again.
However, it’s quite clear that the initial appetite for ‘Glee’ is likely what got this film greenlit, proving that there was a potential audience for a story about choirs, and peppered with performances. So really then whether or not comparisons to it are to be welcomed, Pitch Perfect at least owes a debt of gratitude to Glee for paving the way.
Now, leaving that aspect behind, this film deserves my thoughts on it in its own right.
‘Pitch Perfect’ isn’t exactly that, it misses being perfectly pitched on a couple of points, but thankfully they are minor. There is a ‘gag’ about gagging that really steers just two scenes into territory that the rest of the film doesn’t reside in, apparently making those who have seen it bring up comparisons to ‘Bridesmaids’. This plot point and accompanying visuals are a brief misstep that feels like a badly added appeasement for audience members who for some reason wanted that sort of humour, but the rest of the film offers a level of fun and brilliantly clever writing that is far above that.
It’s an ensemble piece, and within that the writers had the full scope to bring into the featured groups any variety of characters they wanted to, and though many of these draw upon labels and stereotypes to set the framework of their roles, its in the smaller details that the genius resides. One that stuck out for me was probably the really quiet girl who speaks in nearly inaudible whispers, and whose selection to the choir is absolutely unfathomable, but her lines and the superb delivery by Hana Mae Lee means that she pretty-much steals every scene she ‘speaks’ in, with lines like ‘I set fires to feel the thrill’, and ‘I ate my twin in the womb’… possibly not so funny out of context, but that’s how they’re scripted too, and then placed within the setting of conversations going on around her, these unnoticed revelations are there just for the viewers who I would guess find them just as hilarious as I did, an effect only made stronger by the way they seemingly come unbidden.
Then I must mention the music, of which there’s a good amount, not as much as Les Miserables, but pretty regular performances, both staged and impromptu. They’re done in such upbeat and fun ways, and also kept quite short, that even a medley comes in at around 4 minutes, so you’re not pushed to feel sick of the singing, and the variety is great, best seen in the ‘riff-off’ battle scene that is a masterclass in how to make people singing acapella exciting.
Maybe you do have to like musical-comedy somewhat to be motivated to watch this, but would non-Gleeks also find it entertaining? Acca-loutely!