Pitch Perfect Movie Critique

9 September 2016

American musical comedy film directed by Jason Moore. The screenplay was written by Kay Cannon. The musical comedy features an ensemble cast consisting of Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Ben Platt, Adam DeVine, with John Michael Higgins, and Elizabeth Banks. The plot follows an all-girl college a cappella group, The Barden Bellas, as they compete against another a cappella group from their college to win Nationals.

Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick), newly arrived freshman at Barden University, has no desire to attend college, but she is forced to do so by her father (John Benjamin Hickey), a professor at the university. Wishing she could instead move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music making, Beca takes up an internship at the school radio station, where she meets fellow freshman Jesse Swanson (Skylar Astin), who develops a crush on her.

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When Beca’s father discovers she has not been attending classes, he comes to her with a proposition: if she joins a club and still does not want to remain at college after a year, he will allow and pay for Beca to move to Los Angeles. After some persuasion from group leader Chloe Beale (Brittany Snow), she reluctantly joins the all-girl a cappella group Barden Bellas. Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp), another group leader doesn’t initially approve of recruiting Beca, but yields nonetheless due to a desperate need for members and Beca’s own talent.

Beca joins alongside a group of other women who do not fit the Bellas’ typical mold: the misunderstood Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean), the sex-obsessed Stacie Conrad (Alexis Knapp), the quiet Lilly Onakuramara (Hana Mae Lee), and the eccentric Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). At group rehearsals, Aubrey’s uptight and controlling nature gets on the nerves of the other girls, especially Beca. She is constantly critical and insists that they use the same set list the Bellas have been using for years. Meanwhile, Beca continues hanging out with Jesse, who has joined the Treblemakers, the Bellas’ main rival.

After learning that Beca doesn’t like movies, Jesse tries to get Beca to watch The Breakfast Club. Meanwhile, the Bellas participate in the southeastern regional competition at Carolina University. In spite of their distasteful and old set list, the group manages to place second, which gives them the bid to semi-finals. A brief scuffle after the competition leads to Beca’s arrest by the police. Jesse tries to help by calling Beca’s father, which infuriates Beca and turns their budding friendship sour.

A series of complications during the road trip to semi-finals forces the Bellas to get a ride from the Treblemakers, led by Bumper Allen (Adam DeVine), and some smack talk ensues. Once at the semi-finals, Beca notices how bored the audience is with Aubrey’s traditional and overused arrangement, so she provides an impromptu back-up. The Bellas come in third in the competition behind the Treblemakers and the Footnotes; even though the audience seemed to enjoy Beca’s remix, Aubrey becomes furious and yells at Beca, who quits the group.

When the Footnotes are disqualified after the discovery that their lead singer is still a high school student, the Bellas are called to the national competition in their place. The Bellas get back together after returning from spring break, with the notable exception of Beca. During this time, Beca begins working as a DJ at the Barden radio station, playing her music on the overnight shift while also steadily distancing herself from Jesse. Upon finding a copy of The Breakfast Club and watching it on her own, however, she realizes how much she needs the Bellas and Jesse in her life.

Her father convinces her to rejoin the Bellas, whom she finds falling apart during rehearsal. After having a group heart-to-heart conversation, the Bellas appoint Beca as their group leader and decide to adopt Beca’s more modern and original music style. Meanwhile, Bumper leaves the Treblemakers after being offered a job as a back-up singer for John Mayer. With Nationals approaching and the group short a member, Jesse becomes the new group leader and persuades the Trebles to allow Benji (Ben Platt), Jesse’s roommate, to join the group in Bumper’s place.

At the a cappella national competition at the Lincoln Center, the Bellas sing a piece arranged by Beca. After their performance, Beca reunites her and Jesse with a kiss. Six months later, auditions are beginning for the new year while the Treblemakers and Bellas are preparing to select new members for their groups; Jesse and Benji are shown sitting at a desk in the audition hall, followed by Beca and the Barden Bellas, along with their trophy from nationals.

As for the film itself, I highly praised it for its comedic approach as well as the film’s flashy musical numbers. It also has bouncy vocal rearrangements of pop songs, sparkling choreography and a hilarious script make for a movie that’s made to be obsessed over, seen 50 times. I could take one of the finest sequences as evidence, the “riff-off” between the boys and the girls, a West Side Story-style showdown that plays out with shards of songs instead of switchblades.

Its spirited a capella singing makes a predictable, feather-light coming-of-age film irresistibly fun. Imagine it without music, the movie might have been painful, but the songs, Auto-Tuned and processed as they are, generate a hooky bliss. They are the chewy center of this ultra-synthetic hard candy. Let’s take it from the top: Kendrick is a delight. Not only can she act — though we knew that already from the wonderful Up in the Air — she can also sing! Plus, special kudos to Rebel Wilson, who’s subversively awesome Fat Amy won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

In fact, all of the a cappella troupes assembled here (or the voices behind them) are awesome. Never mind that they’re kitschy and earnest and seriously competitive about their craft (which, in some circles, is considered decidedly not cool). The beauty of it is they don’t care; they just want to make music. Overall, it’s a joy to watch a comedy like this, which wraps you up in belly laughs and catchy songs and makes whatever ails you seem far, far away. Pitch Perfect pokes fun at a cappella performers of all stripes, but mostly with lots of heart and pride.

That said, sometimes the film can’t quite seem to decide whether it champions young women (which on the whole, it appears to) or not. The fat jokes can be wince-inducing, though Wilson makes them work; the liberal use of the words “slut” and “bitch” to refer to women is also a concern. (Still, the most obvious misogynist does get called out, and in a delicious way. ) It also relies a little too heavily on a gross-out vomit meme. These complaints aside, Pitch Perfect hits lots of the right notes and will leave you in stitches and singing long after the credits roll.

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