Yes, I am shedding a silent tear as I write that Admission, the recent film starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, failed to deliver despite its pairing of two of Hollywood’s funniest, most likeable actors. Neither actor disappointed in delivering the charm, wits, and personalities that we have come to expect of them respectively, their performances could not save this unlikable film.
Admission is the story of Portia Nathan (Fey), an admissions officer at Princeton University, who is relishing her responsibility to choose the nations brightest, most talented high school seniors for the upcoming freshman class. On top of this steady, life-encompassing career,- which she has been pursuing for the past 10 years- Portia lives with her snotty, uppity, boyfriend (played by Michael Sheen), who pats her head like a puppy, and condescendingly refers to her as a golden-retriever, completing her pleasantly- but equally dismally- safe life.
Portia meets John Pressman (Rudd), principle of an alternative high school, on a high school campus visit, and the pair spark a connection from the get-go, largely due to John’s fevor to talk to Portio one-on-one. John is an odd character- on the one hand, he is sweet and charming (it is Paul Rudd), and on the other, he is unbearably arrogant and unlikable. We soon discover that John’s ardent pursuit of Portia runs further than a simple crush- he wants to introduce her to Jeremiah (played by Nat Wolff), a student at John’s high school, and whom John believes is Portia’s biological son.
The plot mainly rotates around the arc of getting Jeremiah into Princeton, and though he has been coined “prodegy” who scored nearly perfect SATs and straight fives on his AP tests, despite never taking an AP class, has a D+ average, and a resume that is far below Prinecton standards. Portia begins to feel deeply for Jeremiah, and though she does not tell him that she believes he is her son, she continues to the teenager and becomes increasingly invested in his life (and- suprise!- John’s as well.) So begins a tail of mildly humerus shenanigans as Portia and John try to primp Jerimiah’s application and juggle the “characters” that complete their lives, including Portia’s hippy mother (played by Lily Tomlin). And though these side characters are supposed to add humor, ultimately, the jokes are frustrating, and the hostile relationship between Portia and her mother is suprisingly depressing in contrast to the film’s comedic tone.
Although there are a handful of laughs scattered about Admission, the total piece is very one-dimensional, lacking any real depth or meaning. Rudd’s, John, does shed a refreshingly realistic light on the life on a “humanitarian do-gooder,” as John hops from developing country to country, neglecting the fact that his adopted son from Africa would rather stay in one place and live a “predictable” life. However, the only true saving grace of the film is Fey, who is funny and honest, and adds an extremely appealing repeatability to her character even just through her timing, expressions, and mannerism.
All in all, Admission is a predictable romantic comedy that, despite working with deep messages around parents and their children and the bonds that connect them, just barely touches the surface of the depth that it could have reached.