People at times can be so set in their ways, and can be used to the stability and predictable, regulated routine they have made for themselves, that they don’t realize they’re not truly happy with how their lives have turned out. That’s certainly the case with Princeton University admission officer Portia Nathan in the upcoming comedy ‘Admission,’ which is set to be released in Long Island theaters tomorrow night. The comedy, which was directed by Paul Weitz and is based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Jean Hanff Korelitz, humorously chronicles the serious subject of what happens when an established career woman’s views on working, parent-child relationships and romantic connections are instantly challenged by a chance meeting.
‘Admission’ follows Portia (Tina Fey), a gatekeeper who evaluates thousands of applicants and must help decide the select few high school students who will be accepted into the Ivy League college. Portia has lived her life by the book during her last 16 years on the job, and the past 10 years with her live-in boyfriend, Princeton professor Mark (Michael Sheen). When the Dean of Admissions, Clarence (Wallace Shawn), announces his impending retirement, the likeliest candidates to replace him are Portia and her office rival, Corinne (Gloria Reuben).
While on the road during her annual recruiting trip, Portia visits New Quest, an alternative high school run by her former college classmate, idealistic teacher John Pressman (Paul Rudd). John believes that one of his students, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), a gifted yet unconventional learner, may be the son that Portia secretly gave up for adoption while she was in college. When Jeremiah applies to Princeton, Portia comes to re-evaluate her personal and professional existences, as she begins bending the rules for Jeremiah. In the process, she finds a surprising new romance begin to form and reconnects with her feminist mother, Susannah (Lily Tomlin).
Fey was well-cast as the anxious, and at times up-tight, Portia, as she emotionally portrays the character’s genuine desire and ability to launch teenagers into their adult lives. At the same time, the actress skillfully shows that Portia is still stuck in the past and is unable to move on with her own life. Portia believes she has the career and relationship she’s always wanted.
But once Mark expresses his disdain for the predictable lifestyle he and Portia have fallen into, Fey seemingly begins to mature the admissions officer, with a comedic and heartfelt new outlook and maternal desire. Not only does she begin to understand the natural parental desire to want to help Jeremiah develop as a student and an adult, Fey convincingly begins to rebuild Portia’s trust and understanding with Susannah.
Production designer Sarah Knowles helped highlight Portia’s natural growing maturity by utilizing practical settings throughout New York State. While ‘Admission’ is set in New Jersey and New Hampshire, Knowles skillfully used versatile locations to recreate the locations of rural New Hampshire, where Portia confronts her mother and builds relationships with Jeremiah and John, and the suburban campus of Princeton in New Jersey, the beacon of the admission counselor’s emotional downfall.
Knowles skillfully used an equine training center on Long Island to create the New Quest campus; besides using the center’s courtyard and farmyard, Knowles also fashioned rustic classrooms to emphasis the high school’s mission of offering a scholarly and philosophical education. She also expertly utilized a privately owned estate on Long Island, as well as an old farmhouse in Piermont in upstate New York, to emphasize the differences in Portia and John’s upbringings. While the estate showcases John’s family’s wealth and his long determination to break away from his upbringing, the farmhouse, which stands in for Susannah’s home, mirrors her commitment to women’s empowerment. The house features many of her projects that reflect her determination to survive on her own, from bicycle equipment to guns and hunting gear.
Stephen Trask, who composed the score for the comedy, perfectly fitted the music to reflect the characters’ ever changing emotions. From the dramatic melodies that played during the more intense scenes, such as when Portia becomes upset with her mother and John and says she doesn’t want to see them again, to the carefree songs featured throughout the more lighthearted sequences, such as when Jeremiah is attending a party at Princeton during his application process, the music reflects the true emotional nature in each sequence. Trask’s diverse score truly emphasized the natural and ever-changing emotions screenwriter Karen Croner aimed to elicit from each character.
Weitz created a comedic, but also empowering and emotional, story that not only chronicles the struggles teenagers experience as they decide what to do with their lives, but also the self-questioning of adults when they’re faced with unpredictable hurdles. Fey was well cast as the seemingly self-composed Portia, whose life choices are questioned after experiencing troubles in her outwardly positive long romantic relationship and career. Supported by diverse locations created by Knowles, which stunningly highlight the different lifestyles Portia has from John and Susannah, and the creative score produced by Trask, ‘Admission’ is a relatable and comedic look at how people react to change in their lives.