Pitch Perfect Hits Almost All the Right Notes


I don’t know what kind of movie you’re hoping to see if you go to Pitch Perfect, the Anna Kendrick-starring comedy about college a cappella tournaments, but I can almost guarantee that it won’t be what you expect. At least it wasn’t for me. I went into the theater thinking I was about to take in a cross between Glee and the Step Up movies — not that I would have minded if that were the case. I unapologetically like both of those things, but I like them in a dorky, so-bad-that-they’re-good way. And that’s exactly why I wanted to see see Pitch Perfect to begin with. I was hoping for a messy, feel good movie that ideally had some amazing a cappella arrangements (I am also an unapologetic fan of a capella — harmonize on that, haters), so imagine my surprise when what I ended up getting was a self-aware, edgy comedy (more in the vein of Bring It On than Save the Last Dance) that still had amazing a cappella arrangements?

My first clue that Pitch Perfect wasn’t going to be the cheese fest I had been expecting should have been that the film’s screenwriter, Kay Cannon, has been a writer and co-producer on 30 Rock since the show’s inception. And then, to double down on the funny lady cred, it had Elizabeth Banks acting as Executive Producer. Their presence shows because, at its best, Pitch Perfect is a movie about girl weirdos doing what they love. It might not seem like much, but there’s something to be said for portraying young college-aged women who are real misfits. College girls have been portrayed as selfish bitches, dream girlfriends and (maybe) lazy stoners, but it’s rare that they’re portrayed as self-assured, Revenge of the Nerds-style freaks.

Most of the members of The Bellas, the all-female college a cappella group that’s desperate to claim a national title and beat out their male competition The Treblemakers, are so outside the norm and fun that it’s an honest thrill to watch them. Shining above the rest is Bridesmaids‘ Rebel Wilson, who gives a star-making performance as”Fat Amy,” a girl who calls herself that so that “skinny bitches won’t say it behind her back.” The moniker walks a line and would likely fall flat if it were being carried by a lesser comedian than Wilson. Luckily, she plays the role with such confidence, talent and bravado that you truly believe that Fat Amy doesn’t view “fat” as a bad thing. She’s happy with herself and, by default, we’re happy with her, too.

Pitch Perfect does occasionally fall flat. While Rebel Wilson and a few other of her castmates might be representative of a more than welcome other, the three leads of The Bellas are fairly conventional. We’re supposed to believe that beautiful Anna Kendrick, who plays the moody newcomer Beca, is an outcast because she wears a lot of eyeliner and — gasp — is a DJ. Brittany Snow is considered strange because she’s comfortable being naked and True Blood‘s Anna Camp’s main flaw is that she’s uptight. All three women give more than capable performances, but I found myself feeling sorry for them. All of the other girls — the girls who get to be actively different — looked like they were having so much fun, while Kendrick, Snow and Camp were saddled with carrying the drama of love stories and group resentments.

Try not to let that keep you from the movie — all in all, Pitch Perfect is a fucking blast. If you’re looking for story, there’s a sweet romance and the trials and triumph of female friendship. If you’re looking for humor, the jokes range from delightfully mean to offensively lazy (one member of The Bellas is a black lesbian, which would be cool except that’s her joke — that she’s a black lesbian) to heartwarming to gross (this film contains a surprising amount of vomit). In the end though, what really should make you want to see Pitch Perfect is the musical performances. The Treblemakers, who we’re supposed to be rooting against, are so talented that they had my audience cheering from their seats. And Kendrick’s Beca, putting her edgy DJ skills to use, arranges some mashups that are, in a word, delightful. So delightful, in fact, that you might find yourself singing shitty top 40 songs for a whole week. Crazier still, you won’t even mind.

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