2013, Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff. Screenplay by Karen Croner from the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Directed by Paul Weitz.
Tina Fey and Paul Rudd! Romantic comedy! Lots of giggles and laughs and silly feel-good humor! No. Really, no.
Let me explain. Yes, these are two geniuses who can both deliver the laughs in normal, everyday situations – with a straight face. Not the obvious, beat ’em over the head with gross outrageous stunts and sight gags comedy, but more of a thinking person’s humor. Sly and witty, smooth and effortless, utterly believable while mining the levity from real life. Yes, they bring all of that wit and charm and skill at elevating the everyday to a story you enjoy watching unfold on the cinema screen. It’s just that this particular story, while it has its funny moments, isn’t exactly a comedy.
Admission is the story of a career woman who is very comfortable with her predictable and pedestrian life finding herself suddenly plunged into turmoil. Her long-term boyfriend leaves her for his other (pregnant) girlfriend just when she must compete with a cutthroat coworker for a promotion in the Admissions Office of Princeton University. You see, Portia Nathan (Fey) makes a living weeding out less than perfect applicants clamoring for acceptance.
Part of her job is making recruiting visits to high school campuses and that’s where she meets John Pressman (Rudd). He’s everything she’s not, a free-spirited, globe-trotting, tree-hugging adventurer who has made room in his life for an adopted son. This movie might have made a decent typical romantic comedy if the relationship between Portia and John was the single focus. Instead, we are treated to a more complex, more real, more interesting story when we discover that John was motivated to bring Portia to his high school to meet one student in particular. Jeremiah is an odd kid, a nontraditional choice for an ivy-league education, a true genius bored with conventional schooling until he met John. Oh, and by the way, John thinks Jeremiah is the baby Portia secretly gave up for adoption back when she was in college.
Is that enough of a complication? Well, no, because Portia also has issues with her fiercely feminist and self-sufficient mother Susannah portrayed by the excellent Lily Tomlin. Some of the funniest scenes are those centered around Susannah.
As Portia manages to make some painful admissions about who she really is and what she might really want out of life, she meets some pretty challenging obstacles. John has to come to terms with his own unconnected lifestyle and recognize the needs of others. Even Susannah finally has to admit the truth to her daughter.
No, not a comedy in the traditional sense, Admission is more like real life, a family drama with some very light-hearted moments and a few laughs along the way. Fey plays Portia to perfection as a slowly unraveling mess of emotions on the verge of a mid-life crisis and Rudd is excellent as the good guy who is so busy making the world a better for others he doesn’t realize how miserable his own child is.
Admission is a very good movie, just not the romantic comedy it was promoted as, and that will probably damage its box office performance. If you miss this one in the theaters, definitely look for it on disc.