Runtime: 1 HR, 57 MIN
Director: Paul Weitz
Writers: Karen Croner, Jean Hanff Korelitz
Starring: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff, Michael Sheen, Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, Gloria Reuben
Ten years ago barely anyone knew who Tina Fey was. If they did they probably didn’t think that she was going to go on to be the star of a successful sitcom or become one of the most powerful women in Saturday Night Live history. Now, almost a decade removed from her breakout gig as the screenwriter and co-star of Mean Girls, Tina Fey is moving into the dangerous territory that has claimed the careers of many talented women before her… the rom-com.
Portia (Tina Fey) is a Princeton admissions officer whose life is thrown into turmoil when the Principal (Paul Rudd) of a nearby alternative school informs her that one of her applicants is the son she gave up for adoption when she was in college. She’s forced to reexamine her love life, family, and career as she tries to work from behind the scenes to get the son she never knew into the school of his dreams.
Some of you might be saying “This isn’t Tina Feys first rom-com; remember Date Night?” You might be able to qualify Date Night as a rom-com but I think there’s enough action in it to say it’s not an exact fit to that genre. Admission on the other hand falls firmly into the purview of the atypical romantic comedy. If you need further proof of how much of a romantic comedy Admission is just take a look at the male lead- Paul ‘Romantic Comedy’ Rudd. At this point I have to wonder if his agent signed him for some kind package deal on rom-coms; in the last five years he’s starred in at least six of them.
The cast of Admission is one of its greatest attributes. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd have good chemistry and play off each other naturally. Supporting roles are filled with comedy veterans like the great Lily Tomlin and Wallace Shawn though sadly Wallace isn’t given as much to do as I would have liked. Rounding out the rest of the cast is Michael Sheen and ER’s Gloria Reuben; Sheen’s appearance comes across as an excuse to pick up an easy paycheck while I was a bit surprised by Gloria Reuben’s casting since she’s not exactly known for her comedic abilities. Nevertheless the cast of Admission is above average and certainly helps make up for some of its other deficiencies.
Director Paul Weitz has a lot of experience in the realm of romantic comedies. He’s directed some good, some bad ones, and one of my personal favorites About a Boy, but he’s still probably best known for directing the original American Pie. Admission isn’t all that impressive visually but competently shot and makes good use of the film’s surroundings.
Where Admission gets a failing grade is in ‘Consistency 101’ by being an emotional roller coaster. The film flippantly changes tone from comedic to tragic, rarely letting the audience catch its breath. You’re expected to go from laughing to feeling a character’s pain or despair and then immediately switch back to laughing at the comedy. By the end you’re exhausted; if Admission would have flowed a little more smoothly instead of being filled with peaks and valleys I’d be able to recommend it more enthusiastically.
Admission is a serviceable romantic comedy; that might not sound like much of an endorsement but the genre is littered with the cinematic corpses of much less tolerable. The film’s cast is strong and likable with semi-believable characters, much of the dialogue is both funny and witty, and the film’s message is worth examining. Unfortunately, the emotional roller coaster it takes you on leaves you feeling like you just went through the Princeton application process.