Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Squalor: Pitch Perfect

How many puns can we make here?  Pitch Perfect hits a sour note?  Pitch Perfect a little flat?  Pitch Perfect, not quite?  Let's stop there. Three is enough. We don't want to become too tedious in our exuberance, you know?  Not like, um, Pitch Perfect.  Though I tired of Glee's relentless, exhausting idiocy long ago, Pitch Perfect looked like a bright spot on the movie calendar; a couple hours of goofy, girl-powered teen comedy with an added bonus in the scene-stealing Rebel Wilson.  Granted,Wilson makes her brand of awkward comedy work, and newcomer Hana Mae Lee's sneakily off-the-wall lines are another surprising touch, but the rest of it?  Cute...but also over-complicated, underdeveloped, tonally confused, strained, phenomenally shallow, and only moderately funny. The most disappointing part?  It has so much potential for truly effective Mean Girls-style satire that it shouldn't have to resort to formula antics.  Yet, it fits comfortably into them, snuggly in confinement, never bothering to try and do anything just outside the norm.  
Ostensibly, Pitch Perfect is the story of Beca (Anna Kendrick), a girl pushed into attending college by her professor father. She resents it because, well, she seems to generally resent everything. Beca doesn't have an interest in friends, in participating, in movies, or in learning; she just likes wiling away the hours mashing up tracks on her Traktor software.  Beca belongs to a class of characters who do not qualify to be protagonists.  Her lack of interests makes her uninteresting. Her attitude isn't a steely reserve, but instead simply an absence.  She's a stand-in for a skill set which we know,  without question, will serve as the hail mary for the campus's ailing a capella group: The Barden Bellas.

Kendrick has a reputation as a capable actress, but here her self-aware, stiff, shoulder-chip style is so uptight it's nearly unbearable when she actually starts singing. She's singing through her teeth, standing like her ever-present headphones are plugged into her ass, and it's nearly impossible to buy into her as the fresh new presence in a stale old group.  Of course, Chloe (Brittany Snow) and Aubrey (Anna Camp), the veteran pair heading up the Bellas are even more rigid. Simply put: Snow and Camp just don't seem young anymore.  They look comparatively haggard when mingling with the new recruits, and the longer their characters cling to the failed 'old traditions' of the group, the more tiresome the film becomes. By the time we reach the inevitable final round of the competition, we know next to nothing about the characters, little about their motivations outside of the club, and so much has been left to brainless coincidence that the story is going through the motions straight through the forced musical numbers.    
A few years ago I found the feminist implications of The House Bunny's post-make over process to be a serious damper to an otherwise entertaining film.  As I watched Pitch Perfect, I found myself beginning to wish for some of that movie's jokes. While Pitch never forces its characters through unnatural changes or into a set mold, it also never bothers to really let them operate as anything other than two-dimensional devices to forward the exposition.  They may be able to sing, and it may not aspire to grand social change, but I'm certainly not seeing enough of a difference between what Pitch has to offer (other than Wilson's 'Fat Amy') and the swirling silliness of Glee. Though, oddly, the cinematographers here could learn a thing or two from Glee about filming a successful, energetic musical number (these are a little lazy). Still, there's enough innocuous cute in the film to keep you at least moderately interested, and if you see it with a slight fever while laid up on the couch, you'll probably like it tremendously.  As for me?  I'll stick with those opening puns.


  1. It's sad to hear that Kendrick is such a weak link in this movie. I usually like her roles in movies. Nice review

    1. Yeah, she has some talent when it comes to actually singing, but she's so stiff she just read as completely wrong for the role. Watching her interject in the 'battle' sequence with a "No Diggity" through her teeth was actually a little painful for me...

  2. I kind of want to go back to my teenage years and enjoy this movie. It seems like something I would love when I was 14,15, plus I want to give Kendrick a chance to come out of her Twilight image I have of her. It's probably a good drinking game movie though - like most musicals.

  3. There's girl-bonding aplenty in this upbeat comedy about a high-school a capella competition in which voice-only singing, envy and vomiting play key roles...it's Glee with extra sass.


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