Admission Directed by: Paul Weitz Cast: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff, Lily Tomlin Running Time: 1 hr 57 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: March 22, 2013
PLOT: An admissions officer at Princeton University named Portia (Fey) has her boring life challenged when she meets John (Rudd), a teacher at a freethinking school in New Hampshire. Portia also learns that one of John's most promising students (Wolff) is applying to Princeton, and may also be her long lost son.
WHO'S IT FOR? If you're a fan of Fey, this is a questionable matinee at best. Rudd-lovers might as well stay home and watch him in any other romantic comedy. The two as a duo certainly isn't enough to guarantee that seeing this film would be worth it.
Here is a movie with a lot of school spirit for Princeton, but no strong spirit of its own. While it could easily be categorized as a "romantic comedy," Admission isn't really that funny, and its drama (or romance) can't hold an audience's attention either. It's a movie that just sits there, its dull existence rhymed by the bored faces of its two stars on the poster, who seem to be in this film simply to add a grownup movie to their resume. Admission is a movie with no attitude, its characters are blandly perfectly imperfect, and its overly labored plot device is stretched until its shreds of believability become unrecognizable.
Outside of her job, Fey's Portia character isn't the most compelling of individuals, but Fey keeps her a bit memorable. In regards to comedic or dramatic sequences, the script isn't of much help to her, but Fey does keep the story moving (even if it is really slow). Essentially, if it weren't for Fey's unique charisma, this character could easily be lost to the blandness that has inspired her.
Paul Rudd is a fairly malleable male lead for movies, but unfortunately he also is very bendable to be stuffed into a movie like this, in which he plays a flat dream man whose only imperfection is that he doesn't stay in the same place (other than that, he's handsome, he has an orphan son, he takes care of animals, and he runs a school for freethinkers). This type of character brings Rudd back to days like when he starred in Over Her Dead Body, in which he's just an audience's dream of a significant other, with a smile and constant aura of attainability. In this role, Rudd is an extremely easy choice, and makes the romantic aspect of this movie feel all the more automatic.
Working from a screenplay adapted from Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel, Paul Weitz directs this movie with little personality, instead stringing it together as a series of events with highly unbelievable travel time (you know the journey from New Jersey to New Hampshire doesn't take a thirty minutes, Admission). The film coasts on its obvious relationship irony (she is stuck in the same place, and he can't stop moving, get it?!), until its time for the third act, in which everyone confesses to each other stuff they should've done days, if not years ago.
What the film does have going for it is a center job, which isn't something to be under-appreciated. Remember ten or fifteen years ago when every movie seemed to be about young professionals working in ad agencies, or as agents for cameo-making celebrities? This movie is wholly about the anxious mystery of the college admission process, in which colleges clamor for the top spot in college guides just as their prospectives fight for admission in general.
What this film provides more than others is a look into the previously invisible work of the college adviser, giving faces and personality to those who have the power to steer prospectives to or away desired institutions. While the movie is stupidly cheeky to tease its audience with the framing question, "What's the secret to getting in?" the movie does answer questions about who really is handling the paperwork submitters slave over, or even the type of process that goes into selection. A scene in which we watch Portia and her co-workers debate over what students should be voted in or not is notably extended, and reasonably so; it's the most interesting scene in the movie, and that's before this story's dumb and dull drama gets in the way.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10