Pitch Perfect (2012)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V -1; L -3; S/N -4. Running time: 1 hour 52 min.

Two are better than one, because they have

a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone?
And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Beca and the Bellas at a campus sing-off.

2012 Universal Pictures

This is another of those films that I held off seeing until there were no others worth viewing—and which turned out far better than expected. Thinking that it was another campus-set musical like Glee with a plot as predictable as a politician’s broken promises, I was delighted that Broadway veteran director Jason Moore and screenwriter Kay Cannon and a great cast could inject such freshness and energy into the tired old plot of underdogs rising up and winning the Big Competition against overwhelming odds. Cannon adapted Mickey Rapkin’s 2008 book about the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella held each year at various New York City theaters, this one being at Lincoln Center. (Its exterior is a lot more cinematic and recognizable than the lesser-known Town Hall NYC.) This film wonderfully puts on display the versatile beauty of the human voice unaccompanied by any other instrument—as the title implies, a cappella singing is only for those who have pitch perfect voices.

Beca (Anna Kendrick) wants to go to Los Angeles to produce music, but she gives in to her professor father’s deal that she give his college a try for one year. At the fictional Barden College a cappella singing is as big as football is at Penn State. The Treblemakers are the all-boy group that has won numerous regional and national award, whereas the Barden Bellas live under the cloud of their collosal failure the previous year when their high-strung leader Aubrey (Anna Camp) vomited all over the stage during their performance of “Turn the Beat Around.” The arrogant Treblemakers enjoy putting down their rivals as a bunch of losers.

The independent-minded Beca holds out against joining the Bellas, but eventually gives in, at which time she immediately clashes with the controlling Aubrey, the group’s self-appointed leader. Beca has a laptop full of her own song variations, but Aubrey insists on using the same old song as they prepare for their regional competitions. Beca also runs up against Aubrey’s strict rule that no Bella will ever enter into a relationship with a member of the Treblemakers. Beca has resisted the charms of Jesse (Skylar Astin), like her a talented singer—and member of the Treblemakers, but his persistence in wooing her leads to the melting of her heart.

This is not a film in which you will learn anything about life on a college campus. No scenes of English or Philosophy classes, or even sports events. A cappela reigns at Barden, apparently sucking all the air from any academic or sports concerns. Nor does it seem very realistic that we never see a faculty advisor or sponsor with the groups. Apparently the students are uninhibited by the usual administrative oversight, so Aubrey ‘s word is final law in everything pertaining to the Bellas.

There are the usual up and downs in Beca and Jesse’s relationship, as well as with the fortunes of the Bellas, a low point being when they lose out to a rival team in the semi-finals, thus dashing their hopes for reaching the final competition in New York. Of course, this is a Hollywood musical, so it is no spoiler to reveal that they make it, and that even Aubrey and Bella will arrive at a reconciliation that would have warmed Gandhi’s heart.

Jesse’s passion for the great John Hughes’ movie The Breakfast Club will appeal to many. Declaring that she does not care for movies, Beca at first refuses to watch the DVD with him. He especially wants her to pay attention to the film’s theme song by the Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me,” which applies to their relationship with its line, “ As you walk on by Will you call my name?” By the end of this film we know what her answer will be. Also of interest to people of faith are the lyrics of the act which the Bellas perform at Lincoln Center, the lyrics of which range from an anti-sellout plea against commercialism to an invitation for a nocturnal sexual tryst. II hasten to add that it is, of course, the first part, derived from British artist Jessie J’ “Price Tag” that draws me in here.

Another factor in the film’s favor is the delightful hefty singer Rebel Wilson whose character is smart enough to co-opt the label Fat Amy—she says that this takes away the sting of having catty gossips call her this behind her back. Even in a beanpole figure worshiping culture this gal will go far! Love her! And I think that you will love this movie too, discovering in the dark of the theater that your hands and/or feet are keeping rhythm with the infectious music.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. Compare this film to other: teenaged musicals; campus-set movies. What sets this one apart for you (if it does)?

2. How is Beca the typical loner at first? What draws her out of herself? How does she change by the end of the film, thus embracing the wisdom of the passage from Ecclesiastes?

3. How is Aubrey depicted at the beginning of the film? How is a clash between her and Beca inevitable? In what ways does this film divert from the usual plot in which the villain receives her/his come-uppance? (If you have seen either How to Eat Worms or Bridge to Terabitha, you might compare them.) How is this more satisfying than the squashing or destruction of the “bad” person?

4. Are you like Jesse in that you have a favorite movie? What is there in The Breakfast Club that appeals to Jesse? What is it in your favoprite song that inspires you so?

5. How are the opening words for the “Bella’s song at the Finals” similar to isaiah 55:1: “Seems like everybody’s got a price, I wonder how they sleep at night, When the sale comes first and the truth comes second, Just stop for a minute and smile”

© Universal Music Group How will this be important for Beca if or when she moves on to L.A. to pursue her music production career? To see all of the lyrics go to: http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/pitchperfect/bellasfinals.htm 6. To see the lyrics and hear the video of Jessie J’s “Price Tag” go to http://www.musicloversgroup.com/jessie-j-price-tag-lyrics-and-video/ After playing this for the group, you might ask what Scriptural passages besides the one from Isaiah relate to the theme of the song, especially her lines “Why is everybody so obsessed?/Money can’t buy us happiness.” (The Sermon on the Mount is a good place to start, perhaps winding up with the famous quote about the love of money in 1 Timothy 6:1.)

7. The cartoon-like video’s striking images could lead to an intriguing discussion. Such images as the money tree; the ballerina; the dancing marionettes; the doll house; and more.