Based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, Admission centers around Fey’s Portia, a tightly-wound Admissions Officer at Princeton who resembles Liz Lemon in her neuroticism, frumpy dress, and feminist leanings, but without the comic timing and off-beat winsomeness that made the latter character likable. In many ways, Fey’s Portia is a very typical Hollywood portrayal of the Middle-Aged Working Woman — one too consumed by her career (in this instance, the very serious business of deciding who gets into Princeton’s class of 2016) and whose life outside of work is primed to unravel.
And the unraveling begins when Portia encounters former college classmate and globe-trotting, Peter Pan complex-suffering single dad John (Paul Rudd) on a tour of high schools. At John’s super-crunchy alternative school, New Quest, she’s introduced to a quirky, promising student with not-so-promising grades named Jeremiah (played wonderfully by Nat Wolff), who John wants to help get into Princeton (with a little help from Portia). As the story unfolds in a somewhat convoluted fashion, John discovers that Portia is in fact Jeremiah’s biological mother, the product of a youthful error in judgement. Reeling from this revelation, Portia rushes to a reception she and professor husband Mark (Michael Sheen) are hosting at their home, only to have Mark announce he’s leaving her for another woman in front of all assembled.
At a crisis point, Portia gives in to John’s pleading to help Jeremiah get into Princeton, and the majority of the subsequent plot revolves around Portia’s dilemma therein: how can she do right by brilliant Jeremiah, who is so deserving of a champion, and still not compromise her ethics at work? There’s also a brilliant turn by Lily Tomlin as Portia’s straight-talking old school feminist mother Susannah, the very awkward and amusing birth of a calf, and some inevitable-feeling romance between Fey and Rudd, with little chemistry or sparks. (At least on screen, between them. There’s hardly a better way to rev up MY engine than watching Paul Rudd kiss ANYONE.) (Usually.)
Admission is a film that had everything going for it: two fantastic (and attractive! and funny!) actors, a hugely talented supporting cast, and director Paul Weitz (About A Boy). But Fey and Rudd – who should be the internal combustion engine of the movie – come off as one-dimensional and stiff, and the viewer has to struggle to connect with their characters and believe in their romance, let alone feel any heat from it. Which (*sigh*)… a cryin’ shame.
Is Admission a decent date night movie? Yes, it probably is. But is it also filled with missed comedic opportunities and poor scripting choices that make it a less-than-satisfying experience? Most definitely.
Hey, anybody wanna watch Anchorman?
Admission will be in theaters March 22, 2013.
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