Admission is a drama/comedy/love story/coming-of-age film about a woman who vets applications to Princeton.
Eager to be all things to all people, jammed with information, somewhat plot heavy and keen to please, the movie is almost as overreaching as the ivy league applications at the centre of the story. Don’t misunderstand — there’s a good movie in here. It just takes a bit of patience to find it.
Tina Fey stars as Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at Princeton. Portia’s in a long-term relationship with an academic (Michael Sheen) and has a neat and tidy life, happily without children. Soon enough, things change. Her boyfriend leaves her for a woman who is pregnant. Heartbroken Portia finds little comfort in the company of her feminist mother (Lily Tomlin). She’s also locked into a death battle with a co-worker (Gloria Reuben) for their boss’ job.
Portia is besieged by various prep school and high school officials who want her to consider their graduates as Princeton material. One persistent headmaster, John Pressman (Paul Rudd), runs a new age school where free-roaming children do farm chores as part of their academic day; a boy in the school, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), is a prodigy and Pressman is convinced he should go to Princeton.
Also, based on a bit of sleuthing, Pressman believes this genius teenager and Portia are related. Convinced by Pressman to help out, Portia sets about trying to ensure Jeremiah gets into Princeton. That seems to be what the boy wants. In the process of helping him, what Portia eventually learns about him — and herself — takes up the rest of the story ... except for that little corner left over for the growing romance between Portia and John Pressman.
Admission is a strange hybrid that seems unsure of itself, story-wise, and a bit tone deaf. Is this a comedy? Is it a drama about being a mentor in life? It is a drama about what we do for love? The most interesting part of the film was watching hopeful candidates audition for a place at Princeton.
The fact that anyone can watch Admission and be left mildly amused, albeit confused, is a tribute to the talent of the two leads. Without Fey and Rudd, and especially Rudd, this thing would have been a dead loss.
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