Anna Kendrick is a beloved actress known for her sarcastic wit and impressive singing talent. While many may know her from her roles in the Twilight and Pitch Perfect franchises, Kendrick actually got her start in a lesser-known film called Camp, which showcased her remarkable range as an actress.
Released in 2003, Camp follows a group of young theater geeks attending a summer camp. Kendrick plays Fritzi, a young and overlooked camper who initially serves as an attendant to the popular girl, Jill. However, as the film progresses, Fritzi reveals a darker side and poisons Jill before a performance of Company’s “Ladies Who Lunch.” In a pivotal scene, Fritzi steps up to take Jill’s place and crushes the part, delivering lines that perfectly encapsulate Kendrick’s signature blend of sarcasm and confidence.
Anna Kendrick’s First Performance Is Still Her Best
While Camp may not have been a critical success, it gave Kendrick the opportunity to portray a complex character and set the stage for her future roles. From Twilight to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to Pitch Perfect, Kendrick’s characters all draw from her memorable performance in Camp. Her ability to be likable and relatable, while also having an edge to her, has endeared her to audiences and made her a sought-after talent in Hollywood.
Kendrick’s singing talent was also on full display in the Pitch Perfect franchise, which reintroduced the joy of singing and made a capella cool again. Her performance of “Cups” in the first film even landed her on the music charts in the Adult Contemporary category.
Overall, while Kendrick has had many memorable roles throughout her career, it’s her breakout performance in Camp that truly showcases her range and sets her apart as a unique and talented actress.
We all know and love Anna Kendrick. The diminutive actress really stormed into our collective consciousness in the Twilight and Pitch Perfect movies. But she started at a much younger age in a little film called Camp. In retrospect, it was the quintessential role for an actress that would go on to have a particularly distinct public-facing personality.
Sarcasm and Singing
Anna Kendrick has made her career by being likably sarcastic. Her characters often have an edge to them while emanating a sense of nerdiness. It has brought her fame. Not just for her roles but for her many times being interviewed on late-night TV. She seems to have found the love of audiences through her ability to be the girl you liked from high school or the girl who was slightly too cool to hang out with you. She is everyone’s aspirational friend.
Kendrick is also known for her singing. She put this talent on full display in all three Pitch Perfect films. All three were a sensation and were responsible for a generation of people thinking that they could make it in the (exciting?) world of collegiate a capella. She and her cast mates reintroduced the concept of medleys, mashups, and the joy of singing. It was the cooler version of Gleeand it made people into aca-fans who were aca-excited to watch Kendrick and her group of misfit girls triumph at nationals.
The first film also put Kendrick on the music charts in the Adult Contemporary category with ‘Cups’ also known as ‘When I’m Gone.’ Its distinctive click-clack of plastic cups made its debut when Kendrick’s character auditioned for the Bellas in the first film. The music video featured Kendrick, now with a backing track, and a diner full of people playing the click-clack cup games to the music.
But this entire phenomenon would not have happened without her original role in a little, forgotten film called Camp.
Camping and Singing
In 2003, Kendrick was cast in her first movie, Camp. With an ensemble cast of individuals who would go on to smaller projects, Kendrick was a standout force. Her character, Fritzi, was a young passed-over nerd. Kendrick, always a smaller actress, is noticeably young in this film. For those who have never seen the performance, it may be strange to see the same powerhouse they know packed into such a young performer.
The film follows a group of children and teens as they attend a theatrical summer camp. These are tried-and-true theater geeks who want nothing more than to be in musical theater. There is the heartthrob kid that every girl loves, the gay kid whose only solace is attending the camp, the blonde debutante who gets the best parts, and a handful of others who round out the list of uncomfortably-pubescent kids. They are having sex, they are singing songs, and they are watched over by at least one former theater guy who is a sad, angry alcoholic that will most likely be redeemed by the end of the movie.
Fritzi starts the film as a bit of a servant to the cool girl, Jill. She acts as her attendant and is often seen undermining other campers who might get in Jill’s way. Jill was one of this generation’s original mean girls. After some time, Fritzi begins to show her true colors. She’s finally done with Jill and poisons her before a performance of Company’s ‘Ladies Who Lunch.’ As Jill vomits her way off-stage, Fritzi pops up backstage in full costume ready to take over, much to the dismay of the director and the sad, angry alcoholic. Their exchange perfectly encapsulates Fritizi’s true character and allows Kendrick to deliver her first true Anna Kendricky lines.
After the director says he’s going to stop the play and Fritzi shows up, the director asks what the hell she’s even doing there. She responds innocently, “Well I… I knew you’d be discussing stopping the show and I just thought how disappointed all the kids would be after.” The director sees through her and says, “You scheming little bitch.” Fritzi fakes shock and responds that she’s actually just a child. Then, as the director attempts to stop her from going on, she growls up at him, “Oh save the speech, rummy. She’s f***ed, I’m ready, and the goddamn show must go on. So let’s get cracking, shall we,” at which point she steps on stage and crushes the part.
In that brief exchange, you see Fritzi finally find herself, and you root for the girl who literally just poisoned the person who has been stepping on them all summer. In just one scene we see the birth of what will be the Anna Kendrick we’ve come to love and appreciate. She’s fierce, sarcastic, standing up to authority, and regardless of her role, she’s one to watch.
Why Camp Is Where to Start
For an actress with a largely comedic career, this film gave her the opportunity to portray a complex character. Everything since then has been some version of this character. The subtle jabs she gets in during Twilighther character in Scott Pilgrim vs. the Worldand the “screw you but love me” character from Pitch Perfectthey all pull from this first performance.
Camp is not a great movie. Most of the stars feel like they were simply filmed during their time at this actual theater camp (which some were). These are earnest performances by people who would go on to do their fair share of musical theater.
Kendrick was different. Given a character that stays largely in the shadows, but breaks free with a growling attitude and a voice and song to match, she kills it.