Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Review: PITCH PERFECT


Anna Kendrick, in her first leading role, is Beca; a retiring alternative type. We know this because she has Daddy issues and she's into DJing. She feels completely at ease dropping knowledge of David Guetta into a conversation and produces mashups, such as the Proclaimers one she drops early on to clue the audience into her cred.

She reluctantly joins the Bellas, one of her new college's four a cappella singing groups (including one populated by, unbelievably, a group of stoners), because apparently these students haven't heard of partying or studying. We don't even find out what any of the characters are actually studying or see them attend a class throughout the entire duration of the film. Instead there’s a regional singing competition as the familiar hook the film’s structure is hung upon.

In what seems like a taken-as-read romantic subplot rather than any kind of natural character development, Beca becomes suddenly entangled with Jesse (Skylar Astin) from a rival a cappella team with whom we see little semblance of any kind of romantic ritual develop. It just happens because we're expected to expect it to. He's another sensitive soul and we know this because he can list his favourite film scores to clue the audience into his cred. He’s the type of dreamer who doesn't mind showing a potential amour the last two minutes of The Breakfast Club, rather than the entire film, to woo her.

The film unfolds in typically predictable fashion but that’s alright because they ironically acknowledge this predictability in the dialogue. Tensions arise within the singing group and a battle for dominance takes place among the ragtag bunch of girls who are hilariously fat/psycho/lesbian/prissy/slutty. The musical numbers which pepper the film are a welcome diversion from the stuttering plot dynamics and themes of acceptance which it tries hard to point out aren’t like Glee, while being exactly like Glee.

Puns on a cappella are grating at first when used earnestly but become head-punchingly annoying when they’re later used frequently and ironically. Non sequiturs and funny voices are threaded throughout in place of anything truly remarkable. When hitting a comedic dry spot, a pratfall or grope will paper over any cracks and if running really low, unnecessary cameos from Elizabeth Banks (who also serves as producer), Har Mar Superstar and Christopher Mintz-Plasse will momentarily divert your attention.

Rebel Wilson as another member of the Bellas gets most of heavy lifting to do when it comes to the comedy. She’s a talented comic actress but she’s not allowed to display anything beyond the unhinged act she’s displayed in all her most recent films. It’s an irony that her character adopts the moniker ‘Fat Amy’ to undercut the jibe being used against her by others when it’s the same trick she’s being forced to use as an actress; play the one-note, big kooky girl who embraces her image in everything and continue to get cast in supporting roles. It’s a shame because she’s clearly capable of more.

It’s no surprise that Wilson was also in Bridesmaids because that’s exactly what they’re pitching at here. It’s a female-led comedy that deals with relationships between women but there’s not an ounce of the nuance shown there. Most pleasingly it doesn’t resort to having an out-and-out bitch character – at least not among the girls – but there is a misjudged running gag about bodily functions that seeks to rival Bridesmaids in the gross out stakes. It wants to be raunchy but even that is dialled down. The most you’ll get is a few “bitches” and a performance of Rihanna’s S&M.

In a film that seems to place prominence on accepting people for who they are, there’s a strangely distasteful thread of meanness towards Asian women which crops up in two distinct circumstances. Firstly, Beca’s inexplicably cold and aggressive roommate who is only afforded one cursory off-screen moment to break stereotype and, secondly, a spooky member of the Bellas who speaks in hushed whispers and betrays a dark past of arson and a “dead body”.

It has all the hallmarks of a post-Mean Girls teen flick with bite but it’s lacking in a sense of identity. It’s never quite sure exactly whether it wants to be a satirical exploration of teen movie tropes in that vein, a celebration of harmony of both voice and disparate personalities coming together or something more dramatic as expressed in the way which it attempts to deal with Beca’s sense of isolation. It tries to be all but never comes close to pulling it off.

The characters just don’t connect. There’s nothing to root for in the romantic subplot and the entire cast of characters, aside from Beca, are so underdeveloped beyond a signifying quirk that they can’t hold your interest. While there is a joy to watching impressive vocal stylings among the various groups, the rest of it is the equivalent of watching the other bits of The X Factor.

Far from perfect.


★★★★★

3 comments:

  1. I soooooo love this movie & especially the pitch perfect songs! Old and new songs with a twist on their renditions. Totally aca-awesome! :) Utkarsh is my crush <3

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