The new film from director Paul Weitz, Admission, is billed as essentially a romantic comedy, though in truth it’s neither particularly romantic nor overly funny, though it is amiable enough to be mildly entertaining.
Based on a highly praised novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, Admission tells of Portia (Tina Fey) a Princeton University admissions officer whose job it is to weed out a small number of educated high-school graduates from the thousands who apply for admittance. She’s something of an uptight, straightlaced though likable enough woman who has order to her daily life until she meets John (Paul Rudd) who insists that one of her potential applicants, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) is really the son she put up for adoption years earlier.
Admission is one of those films with a theme that appears far more interesting on the printed page than on the screen. Author Korelitz knows a thing or two of the system connected to higher education, herself a graduate of Dartmouth who continued her studies at Cambridge in England then moved to Princeton. Exploring the inner workings of the Admissions Office where thousands of eager high-schoolers who want to the know the secret of getting into Princeton can potentially be a fascinating experience for interested parties when explored in detail by the written word, but as the backdrop to a fictional tale of personal self discovery the setting isn’t half as interesting at the movies.
Director Weitz makes the visuals as creative and as entertaining as he can – applicants stand as images at the corner of the room while the their future is being discussed by the admission officers and fall through trap doors when rejected – but the overall feel is one of simple diversion rather than compelling entertainment.
Tina Fey has repeatedly proved herself to be a talented TV writer/performer but still can’t seem to carry enough weight to lead in a feature film no matter how well she comes across on the smaller screen. She works best in an ensemble, but on the strength of Admission, it’s obvious that a film career – at least, as a performer – is going to take time. On the other hand, easygoing Paul Rudd carries things somewhat better as the principle of an unconventional high-school, and it’s great to see Lilly Tomlin as Portia’s bohemian mother who wants her daughter to call her by her first name rather than being “… Continually hung up on this mother/daughter crap.”
It’s good to see a film inhabited by intelligent people – a rarity in films, particularly comedies – and there’s something strangely comforting in seeing educated types continually making the same kind of emotional mistakes the rest of us make, but in the end Admission is nothing more than an amusement when it promises to be something more.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10)