‘Admission’ manages to avoid academic probation
New in theaters today, Mar 22 2013, is the newest film from the man behind Being Flynn, About a Boy and the original American Pie, director Paul Weitz, Admission. The comedy features Tina Fey hot off her final episodes of the smash hit TV series 30 Rock and comedy’s everyman Paul Rudd in a story about an admissions facilitator and a passionate teacher. So how does the film fare in making the grade?
Written by Karen Croner based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Directed by Paul Weitz
Straight-laced Princeton University admissions officer Portia Nathan (Fey) is caught off-guard when she makes a recruiting visit to an alternative high school overseen by the free-wheeling John Pressman (Rudd). Pressman introduces Portia to Jeremiah (Wolff), his gifted yet very unconventional student that might well be the son that Portia secretly gave up for adoption many years ago. Portia is under scrutiny and pressure at work as her supervisor Clarence (Shawn) is retiring and has tapped either Portia or the uber-competitive Corinne (Reuben) for his successor. Despite this Portia starts to find that she is bending the rules for Jeremiah as she feels an instant bond with him, but by doing so she is putting at risk the life she thought she always wanted.
Admission packs a few laughs in its formulaic script that plays out with little surprise. The script plays out like so many other films we have seen before, workaholic Portia has the job she always wanted and the boyfriend (a very funny Sheen) of 10 years that she lives with and nothing changes as her routine life plays out the same. Enter the free spirited John that never stays in one place for very long and his adopted Nigerian son Nelson who resents his father’s nomadic ways. Portia immediately responds negatively to the charming John because he reminds her of her mother (Tomlin) and her own devil may care attitude. The story of course then plays out with John and Portia getting closer as she strives to help Jeremiah, up to a conclusion that while not unpredictable still manages to satisfy enough.
Fey is good enough here, she is a very capable comedy actress, but you feel a lack of attachment from her with the role of Portia, perhaps because most of her material she writes herself and with this being someone else’s work she had less of a personal investment here. Fey’s Portia echoes roles we have seen her play many times before. Speaking of familiarity, it should come as no surprise that we get the typical goofy good guy Rudd is famous for. The majority of the big laughs here come from Sheen as Portia’s ex and Tomlin as her mother. Sheen shows an adept hand when I comes to comedic timing that he does not get to show off as much as he should and Tomlin has been funny for decades and can do this with her eyes closed.
Director Weitz uses the almost sterile environment of the admissions office to contrast it with the disorganized and loosely organized setting of the Quest School where Rudd`s John holds court. Through the course of the film we see the disorganization seeping into Portia`s life as she spends more and more time with John at the school and falls behind at work. The school setting is actually very regal looking and completely sells the point of its Princeton location. Alas the Quest School just looks like an arrangement of shambled buildings and even with the ‘experimental’ tag attached to it is never believable as a school.
Admission has lots of room for improvement, but when the final grades come down it still manages to achieve a pass. The film may be predictable in nature and follow a familiar outline, but there is enough laugh out loud moments mixed with a bit heart to get behind the film. Admission makes the grade barely with a mild recommend.
Till Next Time
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