The short version is that I loved the film. Hilarious jokes, outrageous characters, quality music. This was a feel good movie that absolutely succeeded in its mission. Like most of the audience at a recent advanced screening in St. Louis, I felt a little special for being able to see the movie before its full release on October 5.
But how do I feel about the movie being released in light of my novel -- AcaPolitics -- which came out just under a year ago?
A little backstory is in order. I have several friends working to help market the film across the country and attending these test screenings. For weeks, I've been getting messages like, "Did you know the Pitch Perfect movie uses the word 'acapolitics?' Is that legal?" My response is that of course it's legal. The idea of me, or anyone else, owning the use of "aca"-anything is laughable.
And then there were text messages like, "You know the Pitch Perfect movie is nothing like his book, right? Actually more like yours." 'His book' referring to Mickey Rapkin's nonfiction Pitch Perfect, released 2009. A similar sentiment was recently echoed by A Cappella Records' President Chris Crawford. Crawford posted, "Saw a screening of Pitch Perfect last night. Nothing like the book which is a really good thing."
I have to admit that I was concerned by the possibility that the Pitch Perfect movie had used elements from AcaPolitics that were not found in Rapkin's book. I'm also surrounded by law students for most of the day. This can lead to the unhealthy belief that suing is actually a good idea.
Upon seeing the film, however, I'm pretty much relieved. That is, I think Pitch Perfect the film and my novel are substantially different.
This is not to say that there aren't an awful lot of similarities between AcaPolitics and the Pitch Perfect movie. Off the top of my head: both introduce the main characters at Freshmen Move-In Day; both zero in on the revelry of A Cappella Initiation Night; both feature an all-female group that insists on singing traditional girl pop from the 80s; both focus on the rivalries between acagroups at a single university; etc. Even the similarity between "Brighton" and "Barden" universities is a little funny.
None of the resemblances I just mentioned are to be found in Mickey Rapkin's Pitch Perfect, even though the film is supposedly based on this book.
For the most part, though, I think the commonalities stem from classic themes. For instance, the story of AcaPolitics starts with the two romantic interests being separated into rival a cappella groups. This is the same story as Pitch Perfect the film, but not the book. But obviously no one can cry foul here. This is just the ancient tale of star-crossed lovers.
Similarly, I think screenwriter Kay Cannon and I are both drawing heavily from stereotypes from the actual a cappella world. For example, the habit of some singers to add "aca" as a prefix to every other word, with only occasional success. E.g. Acacrush, acadrama, acaflirt, acaverse, acatypes... Although I must confess, Anna Camp's delivery of "acascuseme?" in the film is priceless.
Of course, a film can do things a novel cannot, in this case, audio-visual performance of songs. For any artistic treatment of collegiate a cappella, actual singing is pretty darn helpful, even if the film's on-the-fly arranging is a little unrealistic.
By the same token, a novel can do things a film cannot. A novel can explore, in much greater depth, internal thoughts and feelings which may not be shown on-screen. And since we believe, or at least I believe, that great singing comes from a deeper place, this internal inquiry seems relevant as well.
I saw Pitch Perfect at a theater in St. Louis, which is admittedly a place where I know many members of the a cappella community. A few memories stuck out during the screening. First, about two dozen heads turned my direction when John Michael Higgins finally said the word "acapolitics" in the film, and there were even a few cheers. Second, someone approached my non-singing law school friend outside the bathroom and asked if I was the guy who'd written AcaPolitics. Seeing the movie had made him want to check out the original story.
Already Pitch Perfect is being compared in the press to cult classic films like Clueless and Bring It On. Like them or hate them, these movies have obsessive fans. (Those who have read my novel will remember Wilson's utter devotion to Mean Girls.) If the critics are correct and "Pitch Perfect" turns out to be just such a film--if Beca, Bumper, and Fat Amy bring many an obsessed fan into the fold--then this will be a great thing for the a cappella movement. And I will be a happy acawriter, indeed.
Follow Stephen Harrison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/acapolitics