By Gary Murray
Starring Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Lily Tomlin
Written by Karen Croner
Directed by Paul Weitz
Running time 117 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Cable
Tina Fey is a much in-demand comic performer who became a star on SNL by writing and eventually manning the Weekend Update desk. She has taken this late night success to prime time with 30 Rock. Then she turned to the cinema with Mean Girls and Baby Mama. Her latest as an actress takes on the romantic comedy genre with Admission.
The film is of Portia (Tina Fey) who is an admission officer at Princeton. Basically, her job is to say no to thousands of young kids who want to attend one of the best universities in the land. She has a long-term relationship with Mark (Martin Sheen) and is on the fast track to being head of the admission department.
Her perfect life is shaken one branch at a time. First, Princeton loses its ranking to #2 on universities. This irritates the admissions boss Clarence (the underused Wallace Shawn). He is getting ready to retire and wants to be back to the top slot before he leaves. Portia sees Clarence’s leaving as her chance to be top dog in the department. All she has to do is defeat her rival for the job.
The second branch is broken when her boyfriend leaves her for another. She is now alone, facing middle age without companionship. On her travels to sell Princeton, she meets John (Paul Rudd) a world-traveling teacher who is working at a new style of high school. One of his students is Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) wants to attend Princeton but doesn’t have either the grades or extra-curricular activities to impress the admission officers. He is a genius who kills on his standardized testing; he just doesn’t fit into the norms of regular academia.
John then drops the biggest bombshell on Portia. He knows that many years ago, Portia got pregnant and gave up her baby for adoption. John believes that Jeremiah is Portia’s son. This brings a large number of conflicting emotions to Portia and makes her confront her own relationship with her mother (Lily Tomlin) a feminist author and lecturer.
Portia’s guilt over abandoning her child and her desire to start a new life by helping her son are the twin plot devices that drive Admission to a series of ending beats that are telegraphed far in advance.
The problem with Admission is that it is not that romantic and not much of a comedy. It just kind of lays there like a patient dying on a stretcher. All of the funny moments are in the 30 second ads and 30 seconds of funny in a two hour movie is a very bad ratio.
Tina Fey is just an actor here, she didn’t write the script. She is a funny woman but the Karen Croner written adaptation doesn’t have much for Tina to work with. It is much darker than expected without any of the charms that Tina has honed over the years. It is more of a waste of talent than a charming gem.
The best moments are the in the search for finding the right students and not the trite romantic notions. While Paul Rudd and Tina Fey do look like a couple, at times they act as if they are in different films. Whenever the two are together, it just feels like something we’ve seen two dozen times before.
The film is directed by Paul Weitz, the man behind About a Boy and American Pie. He knows how to do outrageous comedy and romantic notions. Here, he seems lost in the material, never sure exactly what element he needs to focus on. By making his directing palate so large, he loses the details of what makes a movie work.
Admission is a weak entry and another death nail in the idea of romantic comedy. It will not save the romantic comedy and it will not win any new fans for Tina Fey. It is more of a product than a film, something served as a product and not art.