Hi, Bryan Here….
Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in this rocky comedy from ‘American Pie‘ director Paul Weitz, which jumps between being a heartfelt drama and gross out comedy far too often. Based on the novel of the same name by Jean Hanff Korelitz and adapted to a screenplay by Karen Croner, ‘Admission‘ tells a tale on the ins and outs of being accepted into college, especially one of the most notable and best colleges in America. Even with top notch talent rounding out this little film, I only expect modern returns at the box office due to its subject matter.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this story play out, however this is a little bit different than what we’re used to seeing. Instead of a college acceptance movie focusing on the students and parents, we focus on a teacher and one of the employees of the famous Princeton University admissions office. We all know how difficult it is to receive an acceptance letter from any college, let alone Princeton, and when the deadline approaches for admissions officer Portia Nathan (Fey), she seems to have things regimented and under control. Meanwhile, Portia is competing herself for acceptance for the dean of admissions position played by Wallace Shawn. However, her colleague Corinne (Gloria Reuben) puts on a fake smile and is as passive aggressive as it gets, as she wants the promotion as well.
As I said above, even with crucial deadlines and thousands of applications to go through, Portia seems to be incredibly organized as she has been doing this job for many years and it just comes natural to her. As we see her touring a few high schools, talking what the secret to getting accepted is, her only answer is “be yourself”, one piece of advice she will soon have to follow.
An old classmate of Portia’s by the name of John (Rudd) calls her up and asks her to visit a new-age school he is teaching at, especially to meet one of their brightest students Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), who hopes to attend Princeton. We find out that Jeremiah is adopted from middle-class parents who cannot afford the high price of Princeton. Not to mention that he has less than average grades, but is an autodidact with flawless test scores around the board.
Everything seems on the up and up until a couple of strange situations hit Portia full force. There is an awkward sexual tension between John and Portia, which leads to a clumsy sex scene, and to top it off, John informs Portia that Jeremiah is her kid that she gave up for adoption in college. This sends Portia into a flaming nosedive of erratic emotions as she arrives home to find her boyfriend (Michael Sheen) of many years setting up for a big dinner reception, to which he chooses to tell Portia that he is leaving her for another woman, who happens to be in the room and pregnant from his seed.
While trying to keep it together professionally and socially, Portia heads to her mother’s (Lily Tomlin) house in the country for some hopeful encouragement. However, her mother, a feminist hippie who cares only for herself seems to do more damage than good when doling out advice. As John is trying win Portia’s heart and keep his adopted kid happy, both tend to struggle to do what’s right in an unusual situation, whether it be travel the world with a young one who wants some consistency or cheat the system for a loved one.
On a whole, the story is a decent one, however the execution in telling this tale is a bit of a mess as it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. One one hand we have two endearing people talking about love and their future as we immediately transform a tender dramatic moment to a silly gross out scene that involves giving birth to a baby calf by people who should not be doing this job. It takes us out of the essential storyline for a cheap laugh. That’s the major downfall of ‘Admission‘.
Fey and Rudd do very well as deeply and emotionally flawed characters who always seem to do the right thing at the last minute, mainly being their ability to turn on a nurturing side to them that we don’t see very often. Wolff does an outstanding job as the awkward teenager who sees things clearer than most and who has a love of ventriloquism. The one that steals the show is Tomlin. Her wicked banter on how much she has suffered and been through it all is amazingly funny. Her selfishness knows no ends as she has resorted to letting her pet dogs fend for themselves on small critters for food in her backyard.
There are some funny jabs at college admissions and acceptances, even some at Princeton’s expense, while Fey and Rudd turn in solid but awkward performances. ‘Admission‘ is enjoyable for the most part, but i don’t see people clamoring to see it a second time. The heart and soul is here, however its realization was clumsily handled.