Have I Been Living Under a Rock for the Last Five Years?
We all have that one film which, as the credits roll up, make us simply say “wow”. These outstanding films occur few and far between, but there is no doubting that when a film like this comes along, it deserves to be recognised for its excellence. On my life-long quest to find the best films from across the Atlantic, I have struggled. There has been shock, horror, and anger, yet lately, in a most obscure turn of events, there have been tears of joy. Unbelievable—I know! Personally, I was just as surprised as you are.
Nevertheless, films like this rarely occur. When they do happen, they often slip under the radar into the Hollywood black hole and are never seen (or heard of) again. But not this one. As a devoted film lover, I believe it is my duty to make this film known to the world. Prepare to get ‘pitch-slapped’ people...
So, what's it all about?
Pitch Perfect is the latest film I have watched which has been churned out of Universal Studios’ volcano of cinematic crime and, rather unexpectedly, it defies all expectations.
The Barden Bellas are a down on their luck acapella group, who reside at the fictional Barden University in Atlanta (Georgia). After puking her way down to the bottom of the acapella food chain (what a juxtaposition – aren’t all acapella singers at the bottom?) Bellas captain Aubrey Posen has to recruit – and I quote – “Eight girls with bikini ready bodies who can harmonise to perfect pitch” if she ever hopes to return to Lincoln Centre for the ICCA finals. Sounds easy – right? Wrong!
Forced to just “take good singers”, the new Bellas fall massively short of Aubrey’s high expectations, while simultaneously fulfilling every social stereotype in the most insulting way possible. Including but not limited to… The fat girl, the kooky foreigner, the mean one, the gay one, the nice one, the silent one, the slu and the two at the back whose names nobody – not even the characters in the film- will ever remember.
And then there is Beca: the short one. Aspiring DJ who doesn’t actually want to be in university, Beca is the character which the film predominantly focuses on. As an audience we get the luxury of following her first year as a freshman at Barden, and experience first hand the atrocity of Aubrey’s dictatorial reign of terror over the Bellas. But like every coming of age film, Pitch Perfect is a journey – and with its wonderful soundtrack, it’s the kind of journey we find ourselves wanting to take over and over again.
So, what makes it such a big deal?
Restricted to a lowly budget of only $12million, Pitch Perfect achieves lots with what little it has. Under the excellent direction of Jason Moore, Pitch Perfect successfully goes to a place no film has gone before. No, not space, you idiot! Acapella. Movie musicals have been exhausted – it’s a fact which we all need to acknowledge. If we take a long journey back to the beginning of technicolour films, we can all reminisce about how Dorothy happily sang her way down the Yellow Brick Road to find ‘the wonderful wizard of Oz.’ Skip ahead thirty or so years, and we all remember the bright fun world of Grease, where Danny and Sandy sing their way through what may or may not happened on those ‘summer nights.’ Travelling back to modern day cinema, we relive the exhilarating end number of Footloose, find ourselves ‘Singing in the rain’ and reliving the highly doubtful relationship between Troy and Gabriella in High School Musical. So, given the fact that there were very few opportunities to create something original, it came as a great surprise that Pitch Perfect presented something both authentic and refreshing. The story of an acapella group is one which, at first, may be quite unfamiliar and – as a result – hard to relate to. Regardless of this, Moore manages to take notorious social stereotypes and turn them into 3-Dimensional characters, which I actually find myself caring about. That and it is much more realistic than its predecessors (cough, High School Musical, cough) so you don’t need to fear! You will find no love affair between jocks and nerds in this film; songs with perfect choreography or an enchanting tale in search of a true love’s kiss. Nothing about this film screams staged or Disney. That is what makes it so great – after all, the imperfect is what makes the world the way it is.
Yet somehow this movie’s soundtrack does live up to its name. Involving a boy who desperately tries to woo the girl with some of the world’s greatest films, it should come as no surprise that Pitch Perfect’s soundtrack recycles some of the scores and songs of the timeless classics. But in no way does that mean that Pitch Perfect has no originality of its own. Take the song ‘Don’t You Forget about Me.’ This song played at the end credits of movie The Breakfast Club and launched Simple Minds in the USA. It could’ve been a Billy Idol song but he turned it down. It is one song which is repeated constantly throughout the film and becomes a symbol for Beca and Jesse’s relationship. Yet, as Beca sings the opening lines on the stage at Lincoln Centre, I don’t see the same song that Simple Minds made famous. Instead, I see something that is truly a thing on its own – and for all it is only a cover: is just as good, if not better than, the original. The same happened for every song in the film. Whether modern hits like ‘Price Tag’ and ‘No Diggity’ are your thing, or you are a secret lover of ‘The Ladies of the Eighties,’ I can guarantee that somewhere in this film you will find something which appeals to your tastes.
Starring firm Hollywood favourites such as Anna Kendrick (Twilight), Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) and Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids) alongside newcomers like Ben Platt, Anna Camp and Skylar Astin, Pitch Perfect creates a wonderfully balanced cast which proves experience does not always equal talent. Paired up with the wit and brutal honesty of Kay Cannon’s script, we – as an audience – receive a delightful serving of humour and something uncommon which we rarely see in Hollywood: quality. And with a sequel being delivered as we speak, I admit to finding the torture of waiting exquisite. Nevertheless, I am surprised if you are still reading this article. I would have thought that by now you would have sought out this piece of cinematic mastery. If you haven’t, I can’t aca-believe it!
Go, seek it out. Watch it and realise every expectation Hollywood has set for a good film is a lie. Watch it, and fall in love. Watch it: you won’t regret it – I promise…
© 2018 Ellie Pegden