Based in a universe where one’s a cappella skills function unilaterally with social standing, Pitch Perfect takes a little getting used to. It is a film that adopts various cliché narrative devices and then merely lets them linger in the backdrop, all the while allowing its characters to inhabit the collegiate setting. The intermingling and general feeling-out that goes on through the picture gives Pitch Perfect an odd sense of engrossment – there’s a genuine sense of exploration and self-discovery that echoes from its characters to the audience. Compounded by sharp editing and an appealing cast, here’s a film that possesses a vivid understanding of its characters which allows for cohesive flow in its narrative. Similar to the recent Premium Rush, Pitch Perfect may not have much to illuminate its audience on, but its visceral gravitas and freshness gives the picture a certain kind of bizarre appeal.
A film on the exploits of a university’s rivaling a cappella teams is among the picture’s loose narrative threads that are touched upon in passing. What the picture sets out to do and achieves is developing an intuitive camaraderie between its cast – each actor contributes to an eclectic set of characters, all with distinct features that gives the whole film a well-rounded appeal. A crucial component to bringing the picture together is found in Anna Kendrick, an actress whose charisma sustains much of the overwhelming goofiness on display. And this picture can certainly dip in the overtly odd and crass, which includes more than one scene of projectile vomit. But in what’s Kendrick’s first leading role, she unites the varying tonal shifts, from the comedic and dramatic, into harmonious balance. Perhaps most impressive is that while Kendrick has the benefit of having a sparring partner in Rebel Wilson, much of the cast is comprised of first-time actors who simply don’t bring the same sort of natural appeal.
Pitch Perfect’s preoccupations with the nostalgic are largely exemplified through its use of music and overt admiration for John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. But even in its formal structure, Pitch Perfect feels much removed from contemporary filmmaking – it’s almost feels like a picture that John Hughes would write. This sense of displacement provides some fleeting moments of awkwardness, but it also contributes to its allure. Generally agreeable in every way may come across as faint praise, but Pitch Perfect succeeds in its modesty. There aren’t grandiose statements to be made here – it’s simply a film that works for the fun it exudes.