I loved Mamma Mia!, the ABBA movie. I loved Hairspray. So of course I also loved Pitch Perfect (in theaters this Friday): Watching a group of misfits perform everything from Ace of Base to Rihanna together is infectiously, vicariously fun. But aside from the singing (though the singing is so good!) this is a story of unexpected friendships and life-changing love.
The plot is simple: Aubrey (Anna Camp), the Queen Bee of the Barden Bellas, an all-women's college a cappella group, desperately tries to revive the girls' reputation after an unfortunate incident at last year's finals competition: You only have to YouTube "a cappella barf" to find out what that is. Will they or won't they triumph in finals this time around?
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As a sub-plot, there's a girl-meets-boy story. Beca (Anna Kendrick), the alterna-girl protagonist, comes to Barden as a freshman, but all she really wants to do is move to L.A. and become a music producer. Her college-professor dad convinces her to give higher education a try, and the Bellas, after discovering her considerable vocal talents, basically force her to join the group (watch out for the very uncomfortable naked shower scene). While interning at the college radio station, Beca meets college-boy-next-door Jesse (Skylar Astin), another freshman and a member of the rival a cappella group. It's practically Montagues and Capulets, except instead of killing themselves they rearrange Killing Me Softly.
Despite revolving around singing, gyrating college freshmen, the movie manages to teach us what to do and what not to do when getting into a new relationship. A few lessons:
1. Make your friends central to your life. Beca never puts Jesse front-and-center. Instead, she flirts with him while focusing on her new female friendships, like that with the inimitable Fat Amy (played by Rebel Wilson), the most hilarious character in the movie. At the end, she's thankful for all the friendships she's made.
2. Follow your dreams and passions. Beca never loses sight of her first love: making music. She shares it with Jesse and with the world, and even risks her Barden Bellas membership for the sake of musical creativity — which makes Jesse fall in love with her.
3. Let love into your life. When Jesse tries to protect Beca from getting into a fight with Aubrey, she pushes him away and it creates a rift between them. He questions why she would reject anyone who wants to be emotionally close with her, and she almost loses him because of her pride. Jesse's patience proves that he's in it for the long haul, but it takes some time to convince Beca.
4. Share things in common. Beca and Jesse bond over being new at school and over their love of music. She shares her compositions with him, while he tries to get her to sit through a movie without falling asleep. Thankfully, she gets to the end of The Breakfast Club: You'll see why.
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Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.