Review: Admission – Surprisingly not rejected
I have some admissions to make. I tend to really dislike movies revolving around hoity-toity Ivy League colleges and their pretentious staff and students. I also usually loathe actor Paul Rudd and his smug apathetic approach to his performances. So it was a pleasant surprise that the new Rudd film Admission, being rife with both hoit and toit, still managed to win me over with its intelligence, wit and heart.
Another admission: I’ve loved nerdy-hot Tina Fey since her early days on Saturday Night Live. She is one of the funniest and smartest women in show business, so her starring in the lead role as a Princeton admissions officer was a big plus for this film, which is based on the critically acclaimed novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz.
Fey plays Portia Nathan, who works at what she thinks is her dream job as an admissions officer for Princeton University, deciding the fates of untold thousands of potential students. She is very successful and in line for a promotion to be the Dean of Admissions.
John Pressman (Paul Rudd) runs an unorthodox school for gifted kids and he feels that one young man in particular, Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff), would be a perfect fit for Princeton and he contacts Portia about visiting his school and taking a look at the brainy teen.
Although Portia performs her job by the book, she is slowly swayed into giving some extra attention to Jeremiah and providing an additional push for his approval into the college. She also becomes romantically involved with Pressman after being dumped by her highfalutin boyfriend.
There are a few twists and turns in this film that I don’t want to spoil, but I was happy to find that Admission is not the screwball comedy that I thought it was going to be and that I feel it is being grievously mis-marketed as. That’s not to say this film doesn’t have its humorous moments, but its laughs are more grounded in real-life drama rather than farcical slapstick.
Paul Rudd’s portrayal of the world-galloping yuppie do-gooder and teacher, John Pressman, is his best performance to date. He’s been in some very good movies (i.e. The 40-Year-Old Virgin) but they were good despite of him — not because of him. For me there is just something complacent and unlikeable about Rudd, but I actually think he did a good, believable and endearing job in this film.
Admission also stars Lily Tomlin as Portia’s gun-wielding hippie Mom and veteran actor Wallace Shawn plays Clarence, Portia’s boss in the Admissions department. The cast is great overall and the script by Karen Croner, based on the Korelitz novel is tight, smart and funny. The film is directed by Paul Weitz of the original American Pie film fame.
This movie is about much more than its titular depiction of college Admission practices; it’s also an allegory for our human process of denying and accepting people into our lives – not to mention those we put on the “Waiting List.” Admission is deep, fun and heartfelt and should definitely be considered for your viewing pleasure. Grade: 7/10
Photos © 2013 Focus Features