Reel Shorts | Admission

22 03 2013

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A Princeton admissions officer who is up for a major promotion takes a professional risk after she meets a college-bound alternative school kid who just might be the son she gave up years ago in a secret adoption in the dramedy, Admission.

In her latest comedy, Tina Fey stars as an uptight and straight-laced Princeton University admissions officer, Portia Nathan, who has settled into a comfortable, but boring routine. Spending her days pouring through college admittance applications or giving presentations to potential applicants by day and suffering through a loveless, non-stimulating relationship with a fellow college professor, Mark (Michael Sheen), Portia spends more time watching life go by instead of living it.

Up for a potential promotion, Portia’s world is rocked when a former classmate, John (Paul Rudd) tells her that he may have found her long-lost son, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) who she put up for adoption many years ago. The seed that John plants in Portia’s mind forces her to undergo some soul searching that helps her change her life. Soon, she begins the process of reconnecting with her free-spirited, rustic-living mother (Lillian Tomlin), who is into self-reliance so much that she doesn’t feed her dogs, but send the malnutritioned pets out to hunt their own food.

Directed by Paul Weitz (About A Boy, Little Fockers and Being Flynn), Admission is not the routine comedy college film – especially one with featuring the hilarious Fey. Instead, Weitz weaves in several subplots for the clueless Portia, including her inability to see that her companion sees her more as a pet than a person or that she has adopted a more rigid personality to offset her mother’s more unconventional ways.

Instead, Portia and John begin a tedious dance of romance tied together by their mutual love and hopes of Jeremiah following his dream to be admitted to Princeton. While the road to admission is rocky and the outcome remains in doubt, ultimately it’s not the HOW but the WHY that counts for Weitz. In addition, Portia also discovers the love that she has been missing while ultimately finding herself.

Fey, who has displayed a wicked, yet intelligent sense of humor in films such as Mean Girls, Baby Mama and Date Night, dials it back in this story giving a nuanced dramatic performance that many of her fans may find a bit off-putting. It has often been said that great comedians make the best dramatic actors because it is easy for them to mine their pain and Fey’s performance is a wonderful example of that.

Rudd, who has appeared in his share of questionable comedies, is actually solid in the film and you’ll find yourself rooting for him. Both he and Fey are very engaging together and the film gets a wonderful supporting performance from Tomlin, who laces every scene she’s in with a memorable moment. While it may not be what some fans expect, Fey’s performance is worth the price of admission.

Grade: B-

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