Readers of this review should be pre-warned: I love Tina Fey. If you don’t like Tina Fey, you may as well stop reading this right now.
Admission (2013) is the story of a Princeton admissions officer, Portia (Tina Fey), who finds out from a single dad travelling the globe and doing good, John (Paul Rudd), that the child that she adopted out, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), is applying for Princeton. This presents a few problems for Portia, a dedicated worker who has a drip of a boyfriend (Martin Sheen) and mother issues.
There are complicated thematic undertones in this ‘comedy’. Portia’s personal angst of relinquishing her child for adoption during college are challenged by Jeremiah’s sense of disconnection and isolation as that child. As a young man, John adopted a Ugandan child, Nelson (Travaris Meeks-Spears), who is unhappy with their lives being in constant motion. John, on the other hand, is sick of the ‘box’ society has placed him in (rich, white, entitled) and is endlessly trying to redefine the box. Portia’s single mother (Lily Tomlin), a revered academic, has also been evading the ‘box’ by living in a theory-based idealism and ignoring her familial responsibilities. As if that wasn’t enough, Portia is up for a promotion in the admissions office, which itself is riddled with nepotism.
Admission was a long movie (nearly 2 hours) and at times, I felt the pace was a bit erratic. There is an ongoing stream of rise and falls, as the plot exposes its characters before reigning them back. After only an hour, I felt some of the plots had already come full circle only to find I was just half way through.
Although billed as a ‘comedy’ (with dry humour and Tina Fey style expressions to boot), Admission seemed more like an indie dramedy. I don’t recall it coming to the cinemas here in Australia or perhaps it was limited release. With two famous headliners and the director, Paul Weitz, responsible for American Pie (1999), About A Boy (2002) and subtle gems In Good Company (2004) and American Dreamz (2006), Admission doesn’t really lend itself to a small or artsy production. Admittedly, the humour won’t capture the belly laughs of the general public nor the overarching theme of admission rivet Australian audiences, who are accepted to universities on academic merit alone.
The chemistry between Fey and Rudd quietly builds and occasionally presents itself in uncharacteristic displays of passion. Lily Tomlin is a scene stealer! The development of the mother-daughter relationship is so powerful, it could almost have been a movie in itself. Which is my final criticism of Admission, that it attempts to embrace multiple complex plots without comfortably addressing all of them.
The title itself, Admission, accurately sums up the film, which deals with admissions from every character. Whether it’s admissions of parental regrets, admissions of self-development, admissions of romantic shortcomings or admission into select groups of academia, the inadvertent wordplay delights my inner English student.
Should you spend time renting Admission? All in all, I enjoyed the emotional tugs, the intelligent banter sprinkled with silly humour and Tina Fey. Easily worth the price of admission on DVD or iTunes.
Alternatively, Admission the movie is based on Admission the book, which turns out to be quite a different version of events and might be an option for you reader folk. When discussed by the screen writer, Karen Croner, and original author, Jean Hanff Korelitz, further admissions are made about the screen adaptation.