Published Mar 21, 2013I'm sure it must be easier to market a movie starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd as a romantic comedy than as a smug dramedy about academia and abandonment issues, but Admission is most definitely the latter.
Though it's much lighter and less emotionally raw than his highly underrated Being Flynn, there are a few similarities that tip off what attracted director Paul Weitz to this material. Many of his favoured elements are present: absentee parents; literary references; misunderstood brilliance; children displaying more maturity than adults; and, his director's catnip: it's adapted from a novel. The results are funnier than the trailers suggest, but just as cloying.
Fey plays yet another toned-down Liz Lemon, this time as Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan. In the first of many uncomfortably juggled plot threads, Portia and her chief rival (a rigid Gloria Reuben) flex their claws to compete for the head of admissions position, which has been vacated after their precious Ivy League school falls to number two in the national admissions rankings.
Desperate to gain numbers, Portia hits the circuit hard and winds up visiting a small rural technical school run by jet-setting do-gooder John Pressmen (Paul Rudd). There, she's faced with a pack of sanctimonious liberal brats who challenge her rote spiel on how to stand a chance of being accepted to such a prestigious school, along with one peculiar near-genius who might be the son she gave up for adoption when she got knocked up as a freshman.
At home, as her comfortable relationship with an asshole literary professor (Michael Sheen), who treats her like a loyal canine rather than a lover, begins to crumble, she finds herself increasingly invested in helping this unconventional autodidact get into his school of choice than is professional permissible.
While all this is going on, some minor sparks flicker between Portia and John, a man fixated on involving himself in other people's problems instead of dealing with his own. To illustrate: he forces his adopted son, who is so sick of travelling the world that he thinks boring people are the epitome of cool, to fit the mould of his lifestyle instead of worrying about what's best for the kid.
Lily Tomlin makes an appearance as Portia's fiercely independent single mother — she's proud that she used a random man for his sperm; she doesn't buy dog food under the reasoning that the mutt should hunt for its sustenance. Like all the other adults in the story, she's putting up a front to cover the emotional void inside of her that can only be filled by companionship.
Every time Admission looks like it's ready to flout a few conventions and stay the course of a slightly atypical but still mediocre comedy, it turns a corner into the sappy, preachy and implausible. By the end of this overlong, chuckle-flecked melodrama, the ideals being championed are so twisted that it's downright infuriating.
How could a PG-13 film that manages to call Virginia Woolf a "twat" turn out so wrong? (eOne)