I remember pretty clearly how exciting and scary it was to apply for college. It was quite the process just to fill out one application. It was an intimidating procedure, because I knew how competitive it was just to be considered for a school. I was not the best student in high school, which made it even more of an intimidating procedure. But I knew what I wanted to do and I was willing to do anything to get there, and in the end I think I ended up alright.
One would think in a comedy-drama starring Tina Fey, Paul Rudd in lead roles, as well as Wallace Shawn and Lily Tomlin in supporting roles, that it would have been superb. However, I thought the whole experience was painfully slim. I wouldn't call "Admission" a bad movie per se, it just didn't take off in the way I hoped it would. I find Tina Fey and Paul Rudd both extremely funny and impeccably charming. I thought for sure that this would be a home run for all in involved. But "Admission" is the very definition of light entertainment, I don't know if it wanted to be anything else besides a quaint couple hours of cheap smiles and thought-provoking ideas. It didn't push the boundaries at all, it didn't seem to want to be anything more. It definitely didn't seem like it even wanted to try.
Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan, a successful admissions officer at Princeton University. She is so successful that she is up for a huge promotion since her boss Clarence (Wallace Shawn) is planning to retire. She travels around the country, visiting high school to get students interested in Princeton. She gets a call from John Pressman (Paul Rudd) the leader of Quest School, a fairly unconventional institution. It is later revealed that Pressman wanted to get in touch with Nathan for a very specific reason. Pressman has a student who is interested in Princeton, and he might be Nathan's son whom she gave away years ago in a secret adoption.
She takes the student under her wing, and at first he doesn't seem like a fit at all into Princeton, featuring a horrible GPA. However, he took and passed several AP tests without actually taking the classes and his SAT/ACT scores are off the charts. Yes, once its revealed that Nathan's son is the kid who dreams of attending Princeton, Nathan works overtly hard to makes sure he makes it. I think that is where the film falls flat, it gives us an emotional story that isn't explored very well to carry the movie. Had "Admission" been about an admissions officer helping an undeserving kid to get into college, that would have been more interesting. But they had to give us something too emotional to attach to and that felt phony to me.
The acting is all fine. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd do fine with their material, there isn't much to it at all so there isn't much at all to say. Wallace Shawn's work is on the same playing field, any group of actors could have made this thing at least float. That is all "Admission" wants to do, float. I can also say I got excited when I saw Michael Sheen in this movie, but his character is far and in between. He plays a man who Nathan was dating but leaves her for another woman. He only shows up occasionally to make sure the audience knows just how bad Nathan's life is at the moment. He's not given a real character to play and that's disappointing. Lily Tomlin's character is the only one that feels like she has a pulse, Tomlin seems very exciting with what she is given to do. Her character really stood out the most, she plays Suzannah, Nathan's mother. She really made her character count and I liked her the best.
The biggest thing that bothered me about "Admission" is its ending. Sometimes, even with romantic-comedies, the happy ending is earned. I can respect a movie much more if it earns its happy ending. I have also recommended movies that did not have a happy ending, sometimes we sign up for the sad and the dark. I have absolutely no problem with that as long as the film makes sense on its terms and tells a good story. However, I can't stand it when a movie forces a happy ending, when screenwriters shoehorn happy fluff just so to force smiles from its audience as the credits begin to roll. It's dishonest, its lazy and its a merit I don't think the film earns. "Admission" suffered from that immensely and it made me sad.
If you haven't seen "Admission" yet and like both Fey and Rudd, I'd give this a pass. Enjoy the other stuff in their catalog. Not much to see here.
FINAL GRADE: C-