Movies: "Admission" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Admission"
Movies: "Admission"


Unlike most of the rest of the country, I went to see “Admission.” 


That is because the movie is set at Princeton University, my (ahem) alma mater.  In this, I was not disappointed.  The scenes of the sun-dappled campus, an appearance by the A capella group The Nassoons, and the sense that this is a truly place where really bright students study really great stuff were all pleasing.  


Unfortunately, the movie was not so much.


Tina Fey plays Portia, an admissions associate at Princeton, currently in a long-term relationship with Mark (Michael Sheen, David Frost in “Frost/Nixon”), an English professor who keeps calling her a “good doggie” and patting her head.  How long can this one last?  


When she visits a hippie school in New Hampshire to make her presentation, she meets two people who will change her life:  school director John Pressman (Paul Rudd) and his star pupil, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), a brilliant, somewhat off-base kid, who just may be the child Portia gave up for adoption when she got pregnant in college.  Following her presentation, Jeremiah fervently decides to apply to Princeton.


You can probably guess which way all this is heading.  But there are a few detours along the way.  For one, we have Portia’s mother (the great Lily Tomlin), who lives close to John’s school and has her own views on male-female relationships.  And there’s a talented young newcomer (Travaris Spears) as John’s adopted son, a sixth grader at the school with a world of insight.  And don’t count out Wallace Shawn as Portia’s Princeton boss, or Olek Krupa, who has played an infinite number of Russkies on TV, as the literature professor whose recommendation could determine Jeremiah’s admission to Old Nassau.


So what’s the problem here?  A large part of it is Portia herself.  Fey plays her part much the same desperate way we know her as Liz Lemon, but with no energetic Jack Donaghy to bolster that helplessness, it leaves her twisting in the wind.  Paul Rudd is appealing, but his eco-conscious do-gooder is no match for Tina Fey’s floundering character.


That leaves us with Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn and the kids, all of whom do a terrific job.  But that’s just not enough to sustain this well-intentioned comedy.


“Admission” was directed by Paul Weitz, whose credits range from “About a Boy” to “American Pie.”  The script is by Karen Croner (“Cold Sassy Tree”), based on a novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, who currently lives in Princeton.  The meat-and potatoes cinematography is by Declan Quinn (“28 Days”) and the wimpy new-wave music was scored by Stephen Trask, with cuts from Future People and Vassy.


It’s a heart-felt movie, but lacks any real energy.  “Admission” is rated PG-13 for language and some low-key sexual stuff. 


I give it a C.

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