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Perfect Pitch Perfect

November 5, 2012

I am hard-pressed to find a more wonderful anecdote to these discombobulating times of mudslinging politics, economic crises and really awful weather, than Pitch Perfect. I saw the film yesterday afternoon in a mall multiplex with my friend Kate and its life-affirming effect will stay with me for, hopefully, weeks to come.

Based on the non-fiction book Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory by Mickey Rapkin, the fictionalized film paints a vivid, humorous and touching portrait of the American collegiate a cappella scene.

Here's what I appreciated about the movie: It's very tightly written. We care about all the characters. The actors dance and sing with passion and dexterity. The music, which veers between oldies like Toni Basil's "Hey Mickey" and newer hits like Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA,"  manages to retain personality despite the high gloss of the production process. The story is engaging. It's pacey. There are some hilarious lines.

I also got a lot out of the wonderful yet subtly-communicated message at the heart of the film about oddball-ism. Collegiate a cappella is widely thought of as incredibly geeky and embarrassing, even in the light of hit TV shows like Glee and The Sing-Off. But as in Glee, Pitch Perfect aims to show how cool geekery can be.

The film's many references to the 80s teen movie The Breakfast Club are interesting in this regard. Not only does the appearance of that chestnut (which was an important part of my life when it first appeared in 1985) make the new film appeal to an older generation. But it also points to one of the central conceits of Pitch Perfect. The characters in Pitch Perfect share oddball status with the misfit yet lovable characters in John Hughes' movie, demonstrating that the walls between people who all seem to come from very different worlds are in fact very thin.

The wonderful advantage that Pitch Perfect has over The Breakfast Club, however, is that the thing that brings the walls down is music. That's an altogether more positive ice-breaker than the weekend detention scenario that brings the kids in Hughes' film together.

I bought the soundtrack this morning and listened to it on my way down to Stanford. I'll be bopping to it on my way home too.


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