“I’m gonna finish him like a cheesecake!”
Pitch Perfect (2012) is on my Reading List because I’m a choir nerd.
Almost 12 years ago I became old enough to be part of the school choir, joined straight away and never looked back. Since the I’ve sung in everything from big 150+-strong choirs to tiny ensembles and have done many, many concerts in school halls etc. as well as at really special venues like the Royal Albert Hall, the Piazza della Signoria, Florence and just last year at someone’s wedding service. Singing is amazing*, I love it. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly skilled singer**, I’ve never gone in for choirs I’d have to audition for or competitions because I enjoy just singing as a way to relax without the pressure to be any good. Weekly singing lessons are what kept me sane during exams in secondary school. So yes, while I don’t have any experience of being in a competitive, a cappella, show choir such as those in the film, choir is a big deal to me.
I’m going to say straight off that I didn’t find it very funny. Comedy (like all art forms) is subjective and this just wasn’t really up my street. Personally, I found it a bit gross and too much laughing at stereotypes than with them. I also wasn’t blown away by the characters.*** With the main character, Beca, I feel they were trying to make a refreshing change from the balls of sunshine and rainbows girls you often see in similar films by creating a more relatable and independent lead. However she often comes across as rude and ungrateful in her privilege, so much so that if she wasn’t so obviously the lead you could be forgiven for thinking she was the antagonist such does she share characteristics with the typical mean girls of high school/college movies. She’s not helped by the fact that any attempt to have a deeper, more emotional moment generally falls painfully flat, mercifully really, these moments are also pretty short and rare. I applaud Anna Kendrick for salvaging the character from the unbearable she could potentially be. Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy is the source of some of the film’s funniest lines and moments (as well as some that I didn’t find nearly as funny as it seemed I was meant to), the character has this great, indomitable confidence. I love Jesse (Skylar Astin), member of a rival a cappella group and Beca’s love interest. Seriously, the guy’s practically perfect, he loves film scores! But yeah, if you hadn’t guessed already, the main draw of the film was empathising with choir stuff and awesome a cappella arrangements appreciation.****
First things first, I relate a lot to the notion of “The messiahs of Barden. Well, you know, not including athletes, frat guys, or actual cool people.” [when describing an a cappella group]. In secondary school I don’t really know how much clue the rest of the student body had about anything in the Performing Arts side of the school but for the people that were in it, everyone knew who the cool people were, for whom you were meant to clap the hardest, cheer the loudest and generally go wild for. The high school heartthrob singer, the guitarists and drummers who would improv more complex solos each concert, the Grade 8 players of, what anyone normal person would consider deeply uncool, orchestral instruments and the funniest, most original MDs, plus you got to pretend you knew these people and the coolest teachers because you’d all been on Tour. Then there’s all the familiar stuff like singing exercises that make you look ridiculous and even just phrases such as “Sopranos in the front and altos in the back”. Say what you like about the rest of the film (and I kind of have) but they nail the a cappella arrangements. The choreography isn’t really my area of expertise but it looks really cool. The songs are great, the mash-ups/medleys work so well and the harmonies are on-point. A good musical arrangement is more than the sum of its parts and I love the rush you get from singing in a group, being part of this one amazing whole which is definitely a thing they explore in the film.
So Pitch Perfect: not a great film in so many ways but worth watching for the music (and possibly Jesse).
* Scientific fact. It triggers the release of endorphins, like chocolate or exercise does.
** I am technically an ABRSM Grade 5 singer (go me!).
*** Though I have just discovered that a guy in it is Cormac McLaggen, so there’s that.
**** Hell yeah, alliteration!