Narratives about the struggles of the young to find themselves are fundamental to literature. They’re fundamental to film as well. In the U. S., we expect much of this self-funding to take place during college years, a time when, not incidentally, many students have parentally funded opportunities for occasional study mixed in with other forms of growth and development better left to one’s imagination, or better not. For audiences who find pleasure in stories about young people trying to find their way in the world, grappling with difficult parents, negotiating personal ambitions with practical realities, the film Pitch Perfect (2012; dir. Jason Moore) may offer satisfaction. For audiences who enjoyed the television series Glee (at least in its early years), Pitch Perfect will also entertain—it’s about singing and dancing and sometimes prancing college students competing for a national a cappella singing championship in. In fact, these students sing better than the goobers in Glee, they’re more interesting, and there’s less computer manipulation of the music. And, most of all, for those who take pleasure in films that make fun, sometimes wicked fun, of college students who try to find themselves in singing and dancing, Pitch Perfect will give you some laughs. It really does satirize the students, their youth and inexperience on the one hand, their eccentricities and egos and inexperience and pretensions on the other. Pitch Perfect gives us college students who still possess distinctive personalities that haven’t been worn away by four years of higher education. They’re funny, we enjoy laughing at them, and the film also makes us care about them.
This is not a good film. But it has entertaining moments, and was fine for watching at home. I laughed often during the first half or so. The acting isn’t especially good, most of the primary characters in one way or the other inhabit the expected stereotypical roles in films about the young, and the main character has creepy eyebrows. The Breakfast Club (1985; dir. John Hughes) has a role in one of the secondary plots—I was never quite able to understand why.
Pitch Perfect doesn’t stay true to its satiric energies. In the end, satire surrenders to a deadpan narrative about students competing for a national prize and the fraught romantic relations of two characters. I’d rather have kept laughing.