I meant to see Pitch Perfect when it was at the cinema around Christmas last year, but failed entirely to get myself organised before the run ended. I like Glee, and am also really enjoying Hollywood’s new found enthusiasm for ‘funny women’ films. This film appeals to elements of both, plus stars the great Anna Kendrick, a veteran of stage and screen at a depressingly young age. The Blu-ray popped up at some supermarket checkout recently, so I decided to take a chance and invest.
It’s tempting to just list other things that the film is like – it’s a bit like Glee (not-really-believable episodes of bursting into song), a bit like Bridesmaids (not poo this time, but a lot of vomit), and a bit like every other ‘awkward girl seeks soulmates’ flick you’ve ever seen. But it is also a bit like the really great things about that list – the singing is absolutely terrific (as in Glee), the humour has a real resonance with women in particular (like in Bridesmaids), and watching an interesting character trying to find their place in world is not getting old anytime soon.
So, anyway, here are 10 reasons why I thought it was absolutely awesome:
- It passes the new feminism test for film (and television) – namely, are there more than two women with speaking roles, do these women actually speak to each other, and when they speak to each other, is it about something other than men? Yes, yes, and yes.
- Every character is deeper than they appear. Hilarious fat sidekick? Calls herself ‘Fat Amy’ so twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back. Domineering blonde queen-bee? Reveals a world of hurt with the line As my dad always says, if at first you don’t succeed…pack your bags. Star Wars and close-up magic obsessed geek? Supported and championed by the hero. All the characters are somehow stereotypes in the sense they are recognisable with key traits exaggerated, but the writer gives them so much more.
- The music. I am REALLY not a fan of a cappella, I like my musical numbers to be big brassy yelling fests (I’m looking at YOU Les Miserables) but the energy and wit of the performances are quite amazing. Too many great songs to list here, but I can pretty much guarantee you won’t hear a cappella versions of ‘No Diggity’ or Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ anywhere else.
- The entirely recognisable ‘fish-out-of-water-but-it’s-kind-of-your-own-fault-cos-you-won’t-join-in’ scenario. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we’ve inwardly groaned and thought we’re WAAAY too cool for this. But Beca’s potentially tedious determination not to get any nerd on her is tempered by a genuine ambition to produce a different kind of music. This makes it all more believable that she would initially sacrifice her coolness to get what she wants, and then redefine for herself what kind of cool she wants to be.
- The exploration of what it means to ‘belong’ to some group or someone – do you change, do you fake it, do you change the other thing/person, or is it something even more sophisticated in terms of understanding yourself a bit better?
- The throwaway lines – I won’t spoil them with full quotes, but once you’ve watched the film, see if you can read this list without laughing: …but then I think, hmmm, better not…he’s a hunter…unless you have that too…well, that’s adorable…well, that explains why you don’t like fun things.
- Multiple references to The Breakfast Club. I mean, it’s THE BREAKFAST CLUB, people! No film that treats that seminal piece of teenage nostalgia with such reverence can be bad.
- The relationships. From Beca’s prickly exchanges with her father, to her matter of fact discussions with a potential boyfriend, to the friendship between the two lead singers of the Barden Bellas, every relationship is interesting, revealing, and something a bit different from the cliché.
- The men are really well cast, from the putative love interest with an adorable enthusiasm for film scores, to the easy cool of the British radio station manager. Some have very little screen time, but still have an impact.
- Anna Kendrick, who has already made her mark in Up in the Air, and the Twilight films, proves herself on film (she’s already won awards on stage) as capable of carrying a story and leading any loveable bunch of misfits you care to name. Her audition for the singing groups is a delicious combination of embarrassment, talent and matter-of-fact pride, while her breakout in the ‘riff-off’ shows genuine delight and realisation of what she’s doing.
The point of all this is that it’s well worth checking out – I think it’s surfacing on Sky Movies very soon as well.