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Admission Movie Review

Admission (2013) movie poster Admission

Theatrical Release: March 22, 2013 / Running Time: 110 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Paul Weitz / Writers: Jean Hanff Korelitz (novel), Karen Croner (screenplay)

Cast: Tina Fey (Portia Nathan), Paul Rudd (John Pressman), Michael Sheen (Mark), Wallace Shawn (Clarence), Lily Tomlin (Susannah), Nat Wolff (Jeremiah Balakian), Gloria Reuben (Corinne), Travaris Spears (Nelson Pressman), Olek Krupa (Professor Polokov), Sonya Walger (Helen), Lisa Emery (Mrs. Pressman), Christopher Evan Welch (Brandt), Michael Genadry (Ben), Daniel Joseph Levy (James)

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Now that "30 Rock" has ended, movies are not just something with which to fill summers but a full-time profession for Tina Fey. Admission is a low-key start to this new career phase.
It is unlikely to do anywhere near the business of her hit two-handers Baby Mama and Date Night, and yet it's not offbeat or clever enough to win rave reviews. Its moderate 2,000 theater count seems to reflect the modest designs, which liken it to a Bridesmaids without the raunchy content and big comedy sequences.

Fey plays Portia Nathan, a hard-working veteran admissions officer at Princeton University. For anyone who has applied (or has had a kid apply) to a selective college with any recency, the film supplies an interesting look at the process from the school's perspective. For that, we can thank author Jean Hanff Korelitz, who worked as an outside reader at Princeton for two years. Portia explains to the prospective applicants who get nervous in her presence that there is no secret formula for getting into the esteemed Ivy League institution, although "being yourself" does demand a stellar academic record, numerous extracurricular activities, and great standardized test scores. Screenwriter Karen Croner, returning to the feature film business fifteen years after One True Thing, has Portia visualize the applicants she reviews, as they relay their qualifications to her. It's one of the film's more knowingly cute touches.

Portia's work spills over to her personal life. She is suddenly and abruptly dumped by her longtime live-in boyfriend (Michael Sheen), an erudite professor who pets her like a dog and leaves her for a hateful Virginia Woolf scholar (Sonya Walger). Meanwhile, the head of Princeton's admissions department (Wallace Shawn) is looking to retire, which has both Portia and an equally qualified colleague (Gloria Reuben) gunning for the promotion.

Tina Fey stars as Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan in the Focus Features comedy/drama "Admission." Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) and John Pressman (Paul Rudd) each take interest in a brilliant student's college prospects.

But the chief storyline involves John Pressman (Paul Rudd), the nomadic do-gooder director of a progressive new high school in New Hampshire. Possessing a convenient amount of inside knowledge (and an outspoken 6th grade son adopted from Africa), John reveals that he believes Portia is the birth mother of Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), an eccentric but brilliant student at his school. Recognizing familiar mannerisms and the potential to flourish in John, Portia becomes determined to push him through the long odds of a Princeton acceptance.
Keeping the conflict of interest secret, Portia displays a flagrant disregard for ethics, which the movie wants us to support. That isn't easy to do. The guilt she harbors from having given up an unplanned baby while in college doesn't forgive Portia's selfish professional misconduct, nor can any amount of comeuppance.

Still, this is just an easygoing comedy, the kind that expects us to laugh at Lily Tomlin playing Portia's fiercely independent single mother, who gets out her shotgun when she sees her daughter resisting John's harmless advances outside her house.

Director Paul Weiz has had success with this type of human interest tale with agreeable works like About a Boy and In Good Company. But neither he nor his charismatic leads can make magic out of just lightly diverting material.

The best way to describe the film is "mild." The laughs are mild, the romance is mild, the intellectualism is mild and the viewer should leave mildly satisfied.

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Tina Fey: Date Night 30 Rock: Season 3 Ponyo | Paul Rudd: How Do You Know I Love You, Man Over Her Dead Body Knocked Up
Wallace Shawn: Clueless Vamps Vanya on 42nd Street The Incredibles The Princess Bride
Michael Sheen: Midnight in Paris Alice in Wonderland (2010) The Queen Tron: Legacy

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Reviewed March 22, 2013.

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