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

Tattooed, bearded suspect sought in Williamsburg bike theft:…

The suspected thief faces grand larceny charges after investigators said he entered the building on North 5th Street in Williamsburg.

Local

Report: Rich New Yorkers don't move from NYC…

An Independent Budget Office analysis found that the wealthiest residents don't move out of the city any more or less than other New Yorkers.

National

Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…

Local

Food truck with a mission hires at-risk New…

A group branding itself as food trucks for social justice specifically hires and trains young men and women with troubled pasts.

Entertainment

'Bachelorette' recap: Episode 10, 'Men Tell All'

Why does the #MenTellAll episode exist? Because they don’t, and it shouldn’t. Is it a lazy vehicle to sell more ad space? Is it to…

Television

Olivia Williams explains the ins and outs of…

Olivia Williams plays a botanist beginning to suspect her physicist husband's work on the Manhattan Project might be ominous in WGN America's "Manhattan."

Movies

Scarlett Johansson on 'Lucy':' 'I guess I’m the…

Scarlett Johansson continues her foray into action movies with thriller “Lucy”, admitting it’s been an unexpected adventure.

Movies

Review: Liking Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'…

Woody Allen's latest, "Magic in the Moonlight," concerns a magician (Colin Firth) trying to debunk an alleged psychic (Emma Stone).

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

Parenting

Buy gently worn back-to-school clothes with Kidizen

Kidizen allows parents to buy and sell gently worn back-to-school clothes.

Wellbeing

Ruling could be beginning of the end for…

This morning, a federal appeals court threw out an IRS regulation that implements subsidies for low-income Americans who bought insurance through Obamacare. These Affordable Care…

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…