Is “Pitch Perfect” better at being “Glee” than “Glee”? by Matilda Dixon-Smith

Posted on December 14, 2012

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The short answer is “yes”. The long answer is that, while Pitch Perfect beats Glee handsomely at everything from the musical performances to the examination of friendship and self-acceptance, the film owes a great debt to the gargantuan TV karaoke franchise. A fact they acknowledge gratefully (while poking a bit of fun) throughout the film.

But the thing about Pitch Perfect is that it’s so much more than a Grown-up Glee. It’s also a surprising, subversive and hilarious examination of the raw power of collective femininity. It’s easy to look past the strength of this central message, because the film jingles a lot of bells and whistles, and the plot strays at points (evidence, I think, of a lot of B and C stories on the cutting-room floor). It would be a mistake, though, to judge Pitch Perfect at face value.

Let’s work through this flick; or, as Anna Kendrick would say, “Let’s remix this business.”

The boss ladies of “Pitch Perfect”.

Becca (Kendrick) is a loner DJ and reluctant attendee of Barden University, a college with a hearty undercurrent of a cappella culture. When Becca’s father issues an ultimatum—to make friends and participate or risk losing her chance to move to LA and pursue her dreams—Becca is strong-armed into joining the Bellas, Barden’s dowdy all-female a cappella group. The group is helmed by control freak Aubrey (Anna Camp) and her enthusiastic but downtrodden friend Chloe (Brittany Snow). And they are up against the rival all-male Barden group, the Treble Makers.

Becca is drawn into the a cappella world (amusingly represented as the sort-of underbelly of Barden); there’s even a burgeoning relationship with a Treble Maker new-comer, Jesse (Skylar Astin). However, immersion into the a cappella world means that Bella must face up to her fears concerning social interaction and togetherness.

Kendrick nails Becca.

There are some films you watch that make you feel special, because they speak directly to you. Pitch Perfect is another film that took my breath away. You go into the cinema expecting to be duly rewarded with a trashy teen flick about singing. But there’s more there than you bargain for, and that’s what makes the film truly brilliant.

For a start, the performances are (excuse me) perfectly pitched. Kendrick plays Becca straight, but she’s so ballsy and enigmatic that you fall more and more in love with her every time she sarcastically raises her eyebrow (which is a lot). I was drawn to her; she is a good anchor for the quirk which pervades the film. Skylar Astin, as Becca’s love interest, Jesse, is similarly endearing. He’s a charismatic performer, and he does a fantastic job of being in love with Becca—theirs is certainly the sweetest and most believable love story I’ve seen on screen in a while. They’re just so convincingly nineteen together—no mean feat considering Kendrick is growing into an adult performer before our eyes.

LOVVVVVE.

Then there’s Rebel Wilson. Before this film, I didn’t really understand her appeal—she seemed a bit overdone, or over-hyped.  She’s been in some of my favourite movies of the past 24 months (Bachelorette, Bridesmaids), and yet I found it impossible to truly enjoy her. Then she took on Fat Amy. The performance is a testament not only to how Wilson has made it in Hollywood (it appears that they basically gave her free reign in the film), but also to her gripping performance style. She lifts every scene she’s in with wit, exuberance and cleverly crass physical comedy. She has a fine-tuned comedic delivery and it’s virtually impossible not to be infatuated with her. I would advise seeing the film for her performance alone.

It’s difficult now to see Wilson as anything but a great female role model. She is clearly talented, and she loves herself—with good reason; she is clever, funny and beautiful.

Wilson’s character, that unique blend of honesty and ridiculousness, reflects the true magic of the film. It is one of those rare gems, an artistic endeavour which personifies the moral message it’s trying to convey. Pitch Perfect preaches, with confidence and sincerity, a message about acceptance—of each other and of ourselves.

In parallel, the film itself is refreshingly unselfconscious. It identifies itself as a movie about young people; it nonchalantly includes gross-out gags; it plays as an homage to masterpieces like Bring It On, The Breakfast Club and Mean Girls; and it is at once hopelessly romantic and boldly feminist. It presents a world where collective femininity, and the power of self-acceptance and friendship are like magic. It attaches its audience to fabulous and subversive women, who tell guys off for playing the hero and who love themselves no matter what.

The fabulous Rebel Wilson.

Really, it’s everything I could ask for in a film—which perhaps makes me a bad judge. I mean, there’s singing, romance, pop feminism and references to John Hughes films. 

(As a side note, it would be a crime not to mention Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins stealing thunder as the highly inappropriate commentators. Banks, in particular, is just a complete superstar.)

Sure, there are missteps in the plotting (what were Freddie Stroma, the radio DJ dude, and his six-pack doing there?) and the film suffered from some of the worst editing I’ve ever seen. But the music is great; it’s a divine blend—expertly arranged—of the best and catchiest Top 40 hits. Also, the script is super sharp, with the funniest one-liners since Will Gluck’s superb Easy A.

This is a teen flick (or, more correctly, a post-teen flick) with a brain. It harkens back to the quips, the gutsy female heroines and the well-plotted romance of late ’90s teen flicks like Clueless and Ten Things I Hate About You.

You guys, it’s so worth seeing. Grab a really fun group of mates and I guarantee y’all will be jumping up and down in your seats, involuntarily snorting your frozen cokes out your nose.

Matilda Dixon-Smith is You’re Dripping Egg’s editor in chief. She enjoys gushing about films with awesome ladies, and also films involving dancing. For more of her work, check out “Bachelorette”, or “Spoiler Alert: Apparently Women Can’t Be Assholes”. And you know you want to read “Stockholm Syndrome: A Tale of Intense Boredom Resulting in Love-Delusion” or “Beastly”.

Readers, what did you think of Pitch Perfect? Was it right up your alley, or were you in an entirely different street altogether? To the comments!

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Posted in: Movies