BY DAN METCALF
Clipper Film Correspondent
Rated PG-13 for language and some sexual material.
Starring Tina Fey,Paul Rudd,Michael Sheen,Lily Tomlin,Wallace Shawn,Nat Wolff,Gloria Reuben,Travaris Spears, Sonya Walger.
Written by Karen Croner, based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz.
Directed by Paul Weitz.
Comedian Carol Leifer once told a joke about getting accepted into a community college and that the only requirement an applicant needed was a pen. That pretty much describes my entry into higher education, even though I since excelled beyond such humble beginnings and acquired a graduate degree. For others who aspire to get into more prestigious institutions, entry is a little harder, and competition is a little more intense. Such is the setting for “Admission”, a new film starring Tina Fey as a Princeton University “Admission”s officer who struggles with professional ethics and mid-life crisis.
Fey plays Portia, whose job it is to screen thousands of eager applicants who want to get into the prestigious Ivy League school. Her relationship with her professor/boyfriend (Micheal Sheen) hits the skids when he gets a fellow professor pregnant. Portia takes off on recruiting trip, where she ends up at a new-age alternative high school. There, she meets school director John (Paul Rudd), who introduces her to a gifted student named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), who wants more than anything to attend Princeton. John is also convinced that Jeremiah is Portia's illegitimate son she gave up for adoption 18 years earlier.
As Portia reviews Jeremiah's application, she dismisses the obvious conflict of interest and does all she can to promote him for acceptance. Further complicating the issue is budding romance with John, who struggles with the need to travel the world. John's wanderings are a strain on his adopted son Nelson (Tavaris Spears), who longs for a little stability. Portia's mother Susannah (Lily Tomlin) offers little comfort during her trials due to an overabundance of progressive ideas.
As the deadline for selecting Princeton's newest freshman class nears, Portia must decide whether to take drastic measures on behalf of a boy who may or may not be her son and whether to pursue a serious relationship with John.
“Admission” isn't a terrible film. It has the charm of Fey, who does an adequate job of playing a conflicted professional working woman. Paul Rudd turns in an equally adequate performance, while Lily Tomlin delivers her usual laughs.
“Admission” is supposed to be a romantic comedy, but it isn't that funny, nor romantic, nor touching. Although director Paul Weitz tries to make a movie like his more sentimental “About a Boy” (2002), “Admission” has the distinction of being a movie without much distinction. It's a film stuck somewhere between commentary on the cruelty of snooty college admissions and middle-aged maternal instincts. I suppose the so-called “conflict” represented in the movie doesn't exactly strike me as being all that bad. I mean, when the main struggle is centered around getting into Princeton, that doesn't seem like the end of the world to a guy who is proud of his community college roots.