Film review: ‘Admission’

Tina Fey looks characteristically flustered in "Admission," out today. Credit: David Lee/Focus Features
Tina Fey looks characteristically flustered in “Admission,” out today.
Credit: David Lee/Focus Features

‘Admission’
Director: Paul Weitz
Stars: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd
Rating: PG-13
3 Globes

Two different movies are united by one character in “Admission.” The first movie is about the college application process and how elite universities function. Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) has been at the university for 16 years and with English professor/twit Mark (Michael Sheen) for ten. Portia takes annual road trips to recruit potential Princetonians, and her visit to an idealistic alternative high school run by John Pressman (Paul Rudd) opens up the second movie.

“You never wanted kids?” John asks childless Portia over dinner. “I love that question,” Portia replies, suggesting weary years of justifying a personal decision to thoughtless strangers, before explaining she didn’t want to screw up a child like her mother Susannah (Lily Tomlin) did with her. Susannah’s a first-wave feminist with Bella Abzug tattooed on her left arm who claims to have conceived Portia on a New Jersey Transit train with a man whose name she didn’t know nor care to find out. She wanted sperm for a child, not a relationship. John says he’s figured out his freakishly bright student Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) is Portia’s kid, one she had in college and put up for adoption.

John’s a globe-trotting, save-the-world adoptive dad who worries he’s screwing up his Ugandan son Nelson (Travaris Spears), who lusts for the preppy anchor-festooned jackets and related trappings of his dad’s patrician parents. “Admission” is too neat in giving one childless parent and one worried dad the chance to form a nuclear family unit, but it’s sporadically honest about how moms and dads worry about every decision made and unmade.

“Admission”’s take on college is even more hit-and-miss. As public awareness of student debt as America’s next great financial crisis grows, a movie about an Ivy League school in which money’s never mentioned comes off tone deaf. It’s a shame, since director Paul Weitz has shown awareness of economic social realities rarely mentioned in studio movies before, notably trying to think about what globalization and attendant job instability might look like through Dennis Quaid’s ad salesman character in 2004′s “In Good Company.”

There’s token jabs at unimaginative admissions processes which favor tidy, extracurricular-packed applications from heavily coached students, but no serious jabs. Still, it’s nice to see a movie which trots out words like “autodidact” without apology, and which earnestly believes in the value of a liberal arts education for its own sake, even if it’s not clear who’s hiring on the other side.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

Movies

Frank Miller on writing 'Sin City'

Frank Miller's comics career is a long and storied one, with "Sin City" being one of his most individual creations. Here, in his own words,…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Wellbeing

What eye symptoms need emergency attention?

Many people experience temporary eye-related problems such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) from a cold virus or a scratched cornea resulting from an object coming into…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to longterm happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. A new…

Parenting

Fun family activity: Off-Broadway show for pre-teens

"The Love Note" is an off-Broadway musical your pre-teen won't roll his or her eyes at.

Parenting

Barnes & Noble partners with Samsung to release…

Barnes & Noble releases the first full android tablet optimized for reading.