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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Admission

MOVIE REVIEWS

Admission (2013) starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd

ADMISSION (2013)

Starring Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Nat Wolff, Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, Gloria Reuben, Travaris Spears, Sonya Walger, Christopher Evan Welch, Michael Genadry, Sarita Choudhury, Mihran Slougian, Lynne Taylor, Ann Harada and Ben Levin.

Screenplay by Karen Croner.

Directed by Paul Weitz.

Distributed by Focus Features.  117 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

 

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Admission

The first, and perhaps most important question answered by Admission is that yes, there is still lots to look forward to for Tina Fey fans after 30 Rock.

After all, how do you follow up one of the seminal TV series of your era?  As the casts of Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier have shown, small screen brilliance does not necessarily guarantee you a second act after your career moves on.

Of course, Fey has been flirting with film stardom for several years now, tending to be the best part of movies like Date Night and Baby Mama, doing intriguing supporting roles and voice work in stuff like The Invention of Lying and Megamind as well as even writing the popular film Mean Girls. 

However, none of her film roles lived up to Liz Lemon and her manic TV series.

Portia in Admission is no Liz Lemon either, but Fey keeps circling in closer.  Admission shows that Fey can carry a movie effortlessly (though she is certainly helped by terrific supporting work by Paul Rudd and Lily Tomlin).

Loosely based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, Admission is a pretty standard issue romantic comedy – and yet it is unique as one that revolves around particularly intelligent people.  Sometimes these smart people do stupid things.  Sometimes those stupid things are realistic and other times to the detriment of the characters and the film.  However, in general the movie is intelligent and savvy enough that you want to overlook its flaws.

Portia Nathan (Fey) works as an admissions officer for Princeton University.  She travels in search of suitable applicants from schools around the country.  At this point, she has been in the job for sixteen years, and is in a two-woman race with her nemesis co-worker (Gloria Reuben) to take over the the department when the Dean (Wallace Shawn, for a change allowed to play a character who is not just a nerdy nudge) retires at the end of the year.  Portia is capable, smart and fast on her feet, and mostly able to divorce herself from her feelings about the potential students, yet she is not totally heartless.

She's also been in a long-term if slightly boring relationship with an uptight English professor (played by Michael Sheen, who was also wrong for her in 30 Rock). They've never bothered to get married, but they are a local power couple, throwing faculty mixers and very civilized dinner parties.  She also has a somewhat strained relationship with her mother Susannah (Tomlin), a slight feminist icon who still believes in a hippie lifestyle.

Portia is invited to the Quest School, a new-agey school that puts life experiences over curriculum and encourages individual thought.  The head of the school is John (Rudd), an impossibly sweet, good-looking, nice all-around guy who had slightly known Portia when they were students at Dartmouth.  He introduces her to Jeremiah (quirkily played by Nat Wolff of The Naked Brothers Band), a brilliant student with ADHD, he scores off the charts in tests but his grades have been below average.  Then John drops a bombshell on Portia, he thinks that Jeremiah is the child that Portia had given up for adoption seventeen years earlier.  

The possibility of a son she has never known, plus having the sweet and sexy John around, gives Portia a bit of a crisis of identity, starting to question all of her life choices.

Eventually, you do kind of wonder if Portia's long-denied need for love and a family over her profession seems oddly anti-feminist – it seems to be suggesting that she might be smart and accomplished, but what does it mean without a good man and a child?  However, I think that this is thrusting too much sociological weight on what is essentially a lightweight romance.  Yes, Portia can have her cake and eat it too in life, but it is not that unusual for hardworking professionals – of both sexes – to realize that they have shirked their personal lives in the process of creating their careers.

Honestly, when a lot of the more soapy parts come up in the later going, the movie sways a bit towards the predictable and staid.  It was much more interesting as a workplace comedy.  In fact the will-they-or-won't-they dance with John, while both are perfectly charming and perfect for each other, is really superfluous to the story.  The relationship seems too perfect.  John is written as such a wonderful guy that Portia would be a fool not to notice him.

The first half of the movie, which gives a smart and funny look at the machinations of Princeton's admission office is stronger than the second half, in which Portia makes some decisions that seem very unlike the character that we were introduced to.  However, the second half, while a tiny bit of a let-down, is not so far off base that it undoes the good will built up in the early going.  Plus, quite simply, Fey is a wonderfully sympathetic actor – as is Rudd.  They could do much worse and we'd still enjoy seeing them and root for them to find their happy ever after.  Whatever that might be. 

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 22, 2013.

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Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 22, 2013.

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