By Laurie Coker
From the opening scene of Admission a new comedy starring the talented and funny Tina Fey and the equally appealing Paul Rudd, I knew I wanted to share clips with my senior students as they prepare to write college essays. More than that, however, because of excellent comic and personal chemistry between the leads and a fun ensemble cast, I enjoyed this silly, but adorable romp, provided by director Paul Weitz. While Admission does not have the depth and quality of many of Weitz’s other outings, my guest (another teacher) and I agree it is indeed a cute and entertaining movie.
Fey and Rudd make a great team, but credit must be given to writer Karen Croner, who adapted Jean Hanff Korelitz novel about a by-the-book Princeton University admissions officer, named Portia who finds herself in a moral dilemma when she learns the son she gave up for adoption is applying for admission. Rudd ‘s John Pressman, the director of an alternative high school called Quest, introduces Portia Nathan to Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), convincing her that he not only is her son, but that Jeremiah deserves Princeton and it he. With a few plot (love, family and choices) twists, an excellent showing my Lilly Tomlin as Portia’s mom, and a keen ensemble cast, Admissions does work.
Charm! That’s it, that is what Rudd and Fey have and together they bring it on in full force. Both offer fresh, funny, frivolous characters and I like them! The story might not be the most riveting nor will it likely win any awards, but with this pair in the lead Admissions entertains. Admittedly it is not the best rom-com I’ve seen, but I enjoyed the cast and characters a great deal. And the story does reveal a side of an admissions office rarely seen. Novelist Korelitz worked briefly in one and she allows us a peek at what might just go on behind those daunting closed doors, something I would gladly share with my students and parents might perk up, too, when they see what might happen to their little ones’ dreams.
I don’t believe Admissions means to satirize the process used by universities, while it does do so a bit. It offers some wonderful moments involving students, their essays, trap doors and big rubber stamps. It does gently mock the excesses of the seemingly snobby selection system at elite universities, and it takes a few jabs at pushy parents, the sappily intense personal essays, and the wildly varied lists of extracurricular activities of applicants, but it also pleasingly affirms the values of the system and of the structure and value of higher education.
There is no discounting this cast whether or not one agrees with the value of the story. It does have some missteps and obvious predictability, but it’s sweet and fun and wholesomely entertaining. We need more of these kinds of films and fewer of those filled with wickedness, but then I digress. I am placing a B- in my grade book. As noted, I see playing portions for my students, if I allowed. They will appreciate more what I try to teach when they are writing their admission essays.