a PITCH PERFECT movie for all times

When my godson was born, I got a 20 second phone call.

“We’re on our way to the hospital. The agency said there’s a baby. We had to clear out your room just in case. Will let you know more soon. Bye!”

A month before, I’d rented my best mates’s spare room for the winter so I could live closer to the TV show I was working long days on. When I got back that night, my books and clothes and electronics were hurricane-tossed in the outside stairwell, the better to prepare my room for an emergency social work inspection.

For medical and general-baby-reasons, Shon (the aforementioned baby) wouldn’t actually sleep in the room for another year. But the law required he have a certain number of square feet, emergency exit, etc etc. My room fit the bill, so I moved into the hobbit-room upstairs, which ceilings were slanted too low to be ‘up to code’ for newly adopted babies.

My new room’s major advantage was it had a straight shot to the TV. In the end, Shon and I and the rest of the family spent most of our at-home hours in the living room, anyways. Wisconsin Januaries are too cold and miserable to do much but work, drink, and bunker.

Bunkering with two tiny humans, one of whom needs round-the-clock care, is a different game than bunkering with other adults. My shooting schedule was all odd hours and a baby observes no hours whatsoever, so my summer weekends of beer at live gigs or wine at the theatre turned to wintery ones of reheated pizza and hangout movies in the warmest room in the house.

Pizza, beer, hangout movies.

Pace the floor, exchange gossip, hangout movies.

Burp, burp the baby, hangout movies.

Repeat.

For the same reason a global shutdown doesn’t mean only catching up on Cerebral Oscar Movies We Haven’t Gotten Around To, being exhausted and having a newborn around is the perfect time for hangout movies. Are some Oscar-winners delightful, life-affirming, breezy, or fun? Of course. Casablanca is one of the most rewatchable films, It Happened One Night can be watched from anywhere and as a collection of scenes, The Sound of Music is a great family movie. But in the broad scope of things, Magic Mike XXL and The Mask of Zorro are ‘easy’ and comforting in ways Brokeback Mountain and In The Heat of the Night aren’t. When it’s 2AM and you need to pause every 20 minutes for someone to throw up (mostly the baby. me just the one time when I mixed red wine and tequila. dear god do NOT mix red wine and tequila.) you don’t always want to marvel at sweeping vistas or be captivated by intricate dialogue. You want something very terrible, or very familiar, or sometimes both. You want to see filmmakers stretch a buck. You want to watch piranhacondas eat the types of people who blithely ignore health warnings.

You want to let the dulcet tones of the Barden Bellas lull your squalling six-month-old to sleep.

Many of the ‘truly bad’ movies blur together. At one point we very unsoberly live-tweeted all the Twilight movies, which will one day come back to haunt me: the internet remembers many things about those nights I do not. But we returned to a handful of movies again and again: Casino Royale. Bridesmaids. Hot Fuzz. And especially when Shon was around: Pitch Perfect. Music is infinitely more likely than talking and explosions to put him to sleep, but lest you think I’m about to ‘blame’ my taste in movies on a tiny human who didn’t have object permanence, no.

I won’t argue it’s a perfect movie, that all its jokes land or should have made at all. But that’s not what this series, or this apocalypse, are about. I am here because Pitch Perfect is the perfect hangout movie. It’s a narrative you can follow no matter where you jump in; heck, you don’t have to have even seen it before. It’s populated by a variety of characters; no matter how many join your watch party they’ll find someone interesting. Importantly, it takes plenty of breaks for musical numbers, which is what we’re all here for. Sure, there’s a frame tale, but it’s merely an excuse for the music, just as the structure is an excuse to stage a collegiate Sharks-versus-Jets singalong.

Its construction requires no attention span, its characters are knowing and charming. It has camaraderie, mashups, and the same lack of irony which makes Tom Holland’s Umbrella a delight. It boasts music to appeal to all tastes, with songs spanning the 30s to the Oughts, from A Carter Family song, Rihanna, Simple Minds, Roxette, and Anna Kendrick doing Dr Dre. It hosts Broadway kids showing off with the benefits of film magic (that Since U Been Gone sequence is a delight of editing). It’s GLEE with less after-school special and zero Mr Shue.

Does a ‘riff-off’ make sense, let alone have the possibility of harmonising, even much less being able to pull off flawless transitions between groups who’ve never met let alone performed together? Absolutely not! Does it matter when you’re hanging out, taking trips to the co-op for six-packs or the kitchen to mix up baby formula? Absolutely not again.

I moved out, then to Portland, then to Australia. We’ve gone through ups and downs, hangouts in person and over distance, some truly ridiculous circumstances. Shon is now a wildly energetic gradeschooler who loves Black Panther. Two sequels came and . . . exist.

But one thing still holds true: if Dale and I are in the same room long enough, we’ll end up scrolling YouTube, or looking for kid-friendly films to play in the background, and bang. There’s Pitch Perfect for us.

 

Stray Observations

– Holy shit, pre-You’re the Worst Kether Donohue! 

– If you need more proof this is perfect for a Wisconsin winter, they motherfucking brought the Greenbay Packers into the sequel. Why? Just to hang out.

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