Admission Review: One for the Waitlist

images (10)There is nothing more painful when it comes to movies than seeing someone you love in a movie you, well, don’t.   Think the entire cast of Movie 43, or 90% or Robert DeNiro’s movie choices over the past decade.  Seeing these stars we love take on these sort of thankless roles is like watching your best friend tell an incredibly racist joke at a dinner party.  You’ve known them for so long and you’ve had some great times together, but how the hell are you supposed to just nod your head and go along with it?  This is exactly what I was worried would happen when I first saw trailers for Admission.  If you were to ask me who I would choose if I could meet one person in Hollywood, that person would be Tina Fey.  Not only am I a huge fan of her work on SNL, 30 Rock, Mean Girls, Baby Mama and more, but her book Bossypants remains the only autobiography I have ever willingly read (if you haven’t checked it out, you can guess that I highly recommend it).  I have a tremendous respect for her work as an actress, a writer and a producer, and the thought of her stepping down to the sort of tame romantic comedies Admission seemed to represent was a sad thought indeed.  Fortunately, the movie isn’t in the league of your usual Katherine Heigl Cheese-fest.  Unfortunately, it’s still nowhere near the level of the kind of material that made me fall in love with Fey’s work from the beginning.  Admission succeeds far more as a character drama than a romantic comedy, but there is very little that sets it apart from the kind of fun-yet-emotional dramedies it is trying to be.

The Plot:

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.

Guess how many shits I give about getting into Princeton? 0.

Guess how many shits I give about getting into Princeton? 0.

The only real issue I took with the plot, however minor it may be, is that it acts like getting into Princeton is the end-all determinant of success.  So much of the latter half of the movie revolves around will they let the kid in or not, which feels a bit like the adolescent version of The Oscars. If you win, good for you.  If not, not very many people will really give a crap in the long run if you’re good enough.  Plenty of amazing movies aren’t Best Picture winners (Saving Private Ryan, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction) and plenty of amazingly successful people had nothing near an Ivy League education.

The Players:

You should have dumped him when he started reading The Canterbury Tales in old english

You should have dumped him when he started reading The Canterbury Tales in old english

If you’re like me and you love Tina Fey, then Portia will probably be your favorite part of this movie.  Most of the issues I had with the character were writing-related, Ms. Fey’s presence prevented me from becoming too annoyed with her.  The biggest challenge here for Tina is that the role requires much more from the dramatic end than it does from Fey’s usual comedy wheelhouse.  She handles these moments well enough, but I never got the sort of spark from her serious moments that I have from her roles in straight-up comedies like Mean Girls or Baby Mama.

Gotta love it when the most heavily promoted scene isn't even in the damn movie

Gotta love it when the most heavily promoted scene isn’t even in the damn movie

Paul Rudd has definitely had his own issues with sub-par roles in the past few years so I wasn’t quite as concerned with the potential damage this film could have to his reputation as I was with its potential damage to Fey’s.  Once again, I had a lot of issues with John from a writing standpoint but Rudd brings enough of his usual nice-guy charm to the role to keep things more or less afloat.

Aside from these two, however, the cast is pretty flat.  There are a few minor standouts, but nothing memorable.  I did like how Nat Wolff was able to mix dedication and off-beat motivation in Jeremy.  The fact that the entire plot hangs off of the assumption that he is a genuinely smart and

"My mind sort of goes on a walkabout".  This kid needs to go to Evergreen State

“My mind sort of goes on a walkabout”. This kid needs to go to Evergreen State

motivated kid who doesn’t look good on paper makes this mix essential, and luckily that’s one box Admission is able to check off.  I also really liked Travaris Spears as John’s adopted son Nelson, whose character is the only one I felt was supported by the screenplay rather than dragged down by it.  The contrast of Nelson’s desire to stay in one place with John’s inability to do just that lent to some of the most interesting conflicts of the movie.

The Writing:

Perhaps the best summation of my opinion of this movie comes from Rotten Tomatoes’ “Critical Consensus”.

Admission has a pair of immensely likable leads in Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, but it wastes them on a contrived (and clumsily directed) screenplay.”

So many funny people, so little funny

So many funny people, so little funny

I couldn’t agree more.  The entire time, I kept thinking to myself “These are funny people, why am I not laughing?”  The answer is that the movie just isn’t funny, especially when it tries to be.  Furthermore, the way it tries to mix in its comedic elements with the more serious aspects of the story are awkward and ineffective.  Probably the best example of this comes from Lily Tomlin’s character, who is intended as comic relief with a tender side but just comes across as an aloof, hyper-feminist ass.  My biggest problem with her character, however, wasn’t that she wasn’t very funny but that when she did make the transition to Heartfelt Revelation mode, the general message to her daughter is “it’s okay, I was a screw-up too and that’s how you came into existence!”

Also, the true measure of how bad the screenplay is comes in the fact that it made me dislike Michael Sheen.  That just shouldn’t happen.

The Verdict: 5.5/10 – Nothing Special

+ Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are still just as likable as ever

+ As expected from the About a Boy Alum Weitz, the kids are pretty fun to watch

–  The writing tries to blend humor and drama but largely fails to convey either

– F*ck Princeton

Critical Consensus:

Rotten Tomatoes: 43%

IMDb: 5.4/10

Metacritic: 49/100

Other Reviews:

Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 7.0/10

Black Sheep Reviewsnudity : 3.5/5

Devils Advocates: 3/5

Fogs Movie Reviews: C+

About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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13 Responses to Admission Review: One for the Waitlist

  1. Great review. Sad to see this is a case of wasted potential. I’ll still check it out for Fey adn Rudd, but I’ll have my expectations in check.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Nice review man. I liked the cast and I laughed a good amount of times to where I enjoyed myself. Then again, maybe I was just in a good mood. I don’t know.

    • r361n4 says:

      Nothing wrong with being in a good mood, I myself was probably in a not-so-great one because of how little I liked the looks of the trailers and how much I expected our of the cast. It sounds like it struck all of the right chords with you though, also my girlfriend had the same reaction as yours.

  3. Wordschat says:

    Good review bad movie it would appear. Other day I remarked to a friend that I swear I want to give up paying $10 for comedy at the cinema. Not worth it, wait for streaming.

  4. Mr Rumsey says:

    I may see this one if I can catch it on TV – you’ve put me off paying to see it! 😀

  5. ruth says:

    I’m really not interested in this one to be honest. Not a fan of the cast, in fact I sometimes think they’re a bit overrated.

    • r361n4 says:

      Yeah, I don’t exactly love Rudd but I do like him at least in most of the things he does. Anyways my love for Fey is mostly from her on a writing level, so far as I’ve seen though she’s not nearly as interesting when she’s not acting in something she wrote herself though.

  6. If you could meet one famous person it would be Tina Fey? Cmon, man!

    Meanwhile, I guess I’m not surprised that even huge Tina Fey fans arent fans of this movie. Even though I thought that that was the only group that this film had a chance to completely appeal to… 😯

    • r361n4 says:

      Lol, I know, I should’ve said someone like Scorsese or Spielberg but as far as personality off screen goes I’d still choose Fey. I have a personal theory that writers would make the best dinner guests, seeing as they’re generally pretty funny and have plenty of stories to tell without the possible diva attitudes of actors or the pretentious nature of some directors. From reading her book, Fey just seems like a really down to earth person who is only bitchy in a “sassy gay friend” sort of way. Who knows if that’s true but I’d love to find out!

  7. Pingback: DVD Court: Admission, Spring Breakers, Dead Man Down, The Host | The Cinematic Katzenjammer

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