Easy front-runner for Whitest Movie of the Year. So, yeah, it’s got that going for it…
Admission is about a middle-aged woman who’s made her way up the ranks after working as an admissions counselor for 16 years at Princeton University. She has a long-time boyfriend, doesn’t have any kids, and is doing her damndest to get her boss’ job once he retires. Hers is a comfortable, if not painfully predictable life, and just when it seems like everything’s going great, it all starts crumbling down around her. Her man suddenly leaves her for the woman he knocked up, that leads to some major stresses in her work life, and then she finds out that one of her applicants might be the child she gave up for adoption back in college. Needless to say, the gal’s got a lot on her plate, but since life stops for no woman, she tries her best to get that promotion while secretly being a mother figure to a kid who might her son.
Nothing against Tina Fey, nothing against Paul Rudd, but the sad, sad truth of the matter is that this here romcom wasn’t exactly high up on my Must See list for the year. What can I say, that trailer just wasn’t selling it for me, and having not read the book beforehand, that didn’t help matters either. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. For those who’ve been paying attention, this past winter has been one of the worst moviegoing seasons in recent memory. As a result, it’d been over a month since I’d actually seen a new release on the big screen, and the itch to just see something, anything, was becoming flat-out insatiable.
So when my wife asked me to go see this, I was more than happy to oblige.
Now, one thing to note here is that while I wasn’t expecting much from the outset, my wife was in the same boat. The other thing to to note is that my wife had read the book and happened to love it to pieces. But like yours truly, she wasn’t impressed by the trailer either and thought the whole thing just seemed off. Nevertheless, a date night was in order. So we ventured onward, compared notes, and since I’ve already got Tina and Paul on the brain, I guess I’ll start there.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I say that anyone who’s so much as turned on a TV in the past decade could write up a laundry list of reasons to love Tina Fey. She’s arguably the funniest woman alive, and if her hosting gig at this year’s Golden Globes was any indication, the girl’s only getting funnier. Still, outside of her defining role as the voice of a burrito in Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, TV’s been her bread and butter. And, unfortunately, Admission isn’t doing much to change that.
Granted, her character isn’t really a laugh riot to begin with, but she’s not even all that likable either. Not that any movie needs a likable character for it to work, but it certainly does help to have one you can at least care about. Although this does beg the question as to why Tina Fey, the laugh riot with likability to spare, was even cast as Portia Nathan in the first place? Ultimately, the casting decision makes Portia come off like the unfunny version of Liz Lemon whose wonky moral compass and constant stressing suddenly doesn’t seem so endearing anymore. That’s just no bueno.
I mean, yeah, you feel for her because her husband’s a royal skeeze and all, but that’s about as good as it gets. It’s just hard to cut her some slack, let alone feel for her when she starts sandbagging student applications to get her “son” into Princeton and keeps on bottling up her emotions whenever she runs into her ex and his new squeeze. Maybe if she had been more like Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, maybe if she’d gone off on that jerk in her life the way Kristen so gloriously did at the bridal shower, maybe I would have warmed up to her more and had a vested interest in whether things worked out for her. But alas, there was just something inherently difficult about trying to sympathize with an admissions counselor at one of the most elite schools in the nation. Maybe that’s just me.
It’s too bad really, because anyone call tell you that Tina Fey is better than this and that this unfunny script with its painfully forced dialogue is the one to blame here. So the upside to the situation it wasn’t her fault, but when it comes to comedians trying to venture out of their comfort zone, this is no Truman Show if you catch my drift.
Not to mention that Michael Sheen is also pretty grating as Portia’s ex, but Michael Sheen is usually pretty grating these days. Again, maybe that’s just me.
On the other hand, I would love it if Paul Rudd kept taking parts like this for the rest of his days. He’s one of the few people in this movie that makes his character seem natural and enjoyable to be around, and it goes a long way. Add this to his refreshingly subdued turn in The Perks of Being a Wallflower as yet another reason I wish he’d quit slappin’ da’ bass all the time. Sorry, folks, but that shit makes my skin crawl.
And newcomer Nat Wolff is also good for a lot of the same reasons as Portia’s possible son, so big ups to him. Other than that, I wish I had more to report on. It’s not like it does anything egregious, it was just as forgettable as they come.
Then again, I always have a hard time evaluating a movie like this because I knew I wasn’t the target audience and I had an awfully strong feeling it wasn’t going to win me over either. Needles to say, it met my expectations, and that’s all I really have to say about Admission. But as for what the wife thought about it, she was far more forgiving. It definitely wasn’t as good as the book, she knew it wouldn’t be, and that’s okay. Her big concern was that the trailer made it look like a slapstick romcom, but since it ended up being a closer to the source material than advertised, that went a long way. She wasn’t going in with delusions of grandeur, she was just hoping for some light, enjoyable fluff, and at the end of the day, that’s exactly what she got.
And hey, if the wife is happy, everyone’s happy. Write that one down, kids.