Planes are bad for our judgement. It’s something about the totally artificial nature of it all – eating, drinking, watching a wide selections of movies on demand, sleep-deprivation and time-zone randomness. Somehow that all seems to combine to rob me of the capacity to think clearly. My stomach usually does funny things too.
Which is why I rarely blog about a film I see for the first time on a plane. It’s not a good context to form a considered opinion in. Hence last year I found myself on a flight to or from South Africa watching Pitch Perfect, a musical-comedy about college a capella groups, in which stomachs also occasionally do funny things. Bizarrely, it was a film about which I’d heard nothing but good things. Every reviewer or friend seemed to have gone into it expecting little and emerged with a huge grin on their faces. Not being convinced, I only found the reserves of strength to watch it mid-air. I really enjoyed it. Really enjoyed it. Must have been the altitude, or free drink, or tiredness. Discard opinion instantly.
So I re-watched it this week. Much to my chagrin, it was still good. Still laugh-out loud funny. In many ways it’s an entirely conventional college movie; the plot is resolutely un-startling. Central character Becca (Anna Kendrick) goes through a regulation transformation from alternative-outsider to part of a group in which she can be herself. The underdogs do what underdogs do. Several things, however, elevate it above the run of the mill.
First the music just works. A capella has a kind of intrinsic joy which lends the comedy an energy it wouldn’t otherwise have. The scenes of live performance have an irresistible verve. Then there’s Anna Kendrick, who does little of the actual comic work instead providing a still centre for the real comedy to happen around, a real straight-woman to the rest of the clowns and comics. There’s also the fact that the script is sharp, economical and knowing, referencing classic 80s films without them feeling like smart-crowd in-jokes. And packed, of course, with loads of good jokes and quotable lines.
Along with all that, what I really liked about, what was really refreshing was that this was a comedy with women at the centre and men at the edge; where romance was a sub-plot and looks largely irrelevant. It’s proper comedy without pressure to conform or any of the drab attempts to ‘shock’ of the Hangover-type brands.The film’s surprising levels of success – enough for a sequel to be in pre-production as I write. It’s not a film to change lives, but it is a film worthy of your attention and, if Hollywood can take its lead, could shape the industry for a while to come; away from young-male centred identikit cash generators to a wider sense of what we all want to see. More power to it.
This time around, I watched this movie on TV.
I rated this movie 8/10 on imdb.com and 4/5 on rottentomatoes.com