“Admission” isn’t a bad movie, but it is a frustrating one. It’s as if the crew wasn’t sure what movie they wanted to make. The storyline is too serious to play as a straight comedy, and too wacky to be taken seriously as a drama. The pieces fit together too nicely. The comedy of the flick produces more chuckles than laughter and the overall tone is sort of depressing.
On the plus side, it features a stellar cast including Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Lily Tomlin, Gloria Reuben and Wallace Shawn. Fey is known for her comedy, but she proves that she has some acting chops as well. Also, as the story plays out, you get the feeling that if the story ends the way you want it too, it will feel fake, but if they take the realistic approach, you’ll be depressed. Surprisingly, Paul Weitz steers the ship to safety with a satisfying ending.
On the minus side, Tomlin’s comedy talent is somewhat wasted, the story progresses slowly and the dramatic scenes lack punch.
Fey plays Portia, a woman whose career is evaluating thousands of applicants for Princeton. The Dean of Admissions will be retiring, so she and her rival Corinne (Reuben) try their best to make a good impression to land the newly opened position. Rudd, playing his Ruddiness, is John Pressman, the principal of New Quest, an alternative high school which just happens to be situated not far from Portia’s mother’s home. Tomlin plays Portia’s mother who would rather be called Susannah and just assume to never rely on a man for anything. Portia never knew her father. John adopted a boy from another country and is a single dad. He is the polar opposite from his parents. Somewhere in the story is Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) who John thinks belongs in Princeton, hence to the trip to New Quest. Jeremiah is the only happy character of the bunch.
“Admission” gets much of its PG-13 language out of the way in the first act and except for a couple moments of indiscretion, is a fairly “clean” movie. However, the movie is slow. It tries to build tension, but wimps out. The tag line for the film is “Let someone in” and that pretty much sums up each of the character’s lives. They are all lonely expecting the grass to be greener on the other side, but we all know where that leads. Portia and John are destined to be together, but one doubts if they will stay that way. Committed relationships aren’t valued in this movie.