A cappella is singing that is unaccompanied. The best in a cappella is found not in solo singing, though that can be fun when rotated through the group, but in the wonderful harmonies that combine to create an all-engulfing sound. The only instrument is the human voice, so a cappella is unaccompanied by any musical instruments.
Pitch Perfect is actually a surprising film in the quality of the singing and the dramatics. Some of it verges on the preposterous, but audiences today seem to expect something outlandish to go with their cinema entertainment. In this case it is the leader of the all-female a cappella group succumbing, because of anxiety, to projectile chundering. Perhaps the most important thing to realise about Pitch Perfect is that it is an a cappella college musical comedy. And what people think is funny can be different in other cultures.
The film opens at Lincoln Centre in New York City. The national cappella championships are being held based on those teams that have progressed forward from local and regional competitions. The female a cappella group of Bellas, a dozen young women who sing together, led by Aubrey (played by Anna Camp) a very controlling person, a real nerd of a know-it-all, has been on a roll until her disaster in NYC. Ignore the chundering and some of the college-age jokes and situations that run through the film and you can enjoy the singing and the action. Then you might even sit back and laugh at the antics of the students-often it is so predictable.
Shift forward four months and the Bellas are down to two young women, Aubrey and her right hand sidekick redheaded Chloe (acted by Brittany Snow). It is opening day at Barden University and the duo are recruiting new singers - they need 10 more.
Beca Mitchell (27-year-old Anna Kendrick playing an 18-year-old sophisticate) has arrived to start her first-year of college. For her it is all free because her father, Dr Mitchell (John Benjamin Hickey), is a professor of Comparative Literature at Barden, and has agreed that if she gives it a year and still doesn't want to get educated, he'll help her get set up in Los Angeles (LA), California, where she wants to be a DJ. She's already a sophisticated mixer of music on her MacBook, and quickly volunteers at the local Barden University radio station.
There she meets Jesse (Skylar Astin) who becomes a member of the
all-male a cappella Treblemakers who have been national champions for years under the blatant leadership of Bumper (Adam DeVine). Jesse's aspiration is to write music for films. Jesse is attracted to Beca, but she is unable to reciprocate, even when he tries, most elaborately and gently, to offer her a "movie education".
Her father, realising she has no friends, tells her she must join one club as a condition of getting his support; so she falls into the Barden Bellas. They are quite a mixture of young women. Stacie (Alexis Knapp) is a blonde bombshell. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) from Tasmania, near Australia, constantly steals the show - she is a wonderful comedienne (she's already been nominated for Best Comedienne a number of times). Then there is Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee), a soft-spoken Korean-American. Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), an African-American so masculine that to Fat Amy she's male. Jesse will eventually bring in his magician friend Aaron to help improve the Treblemakers' show.
There is continuous singing and movement throughout the movie - during the film there are at least four competitions. After some local ones comes the South East Regional. At the ICCA competitions the official commentators, Gail and John (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins) are also part of the mischief. Twice when auditions occur at Barden University Christopher Mintz-Plasse steps in as the master of ceremonies (MC).
The story takes a leaf out of the Australian film, Strictly Ballroom (1992) where innovative dance moves are not allowed, but the hero will try to find a way to improvise and win. In Pitch Perfect the dramatic tension comes from Beca wanting to change and introduce to the Bellas singing that she is best at, improvisation and mixing. In the end - you knew it from the beginning-she will succeed, over Aubrey's dead body.
Pitch Perfect is one hour and 57 minutes long. It is rated 13+. The debut director is Jason Moore who enjoys rowdiness. The script is by Kay Cannon who moonlights as a comedienne of masterful improvisations.
The script is based on a non-fiction book by Mickey Rapkin, Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory. The cinematographer is Julio Macat. The editor is Lisa Zeno Churgin. The music is by Christophe Beck and Mark Kilian. The movement of the singers has been choreographed by Aakomon "AJ" Jones himself. The film was made in Louisiana at Louisiana State University.