The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
Fey does her best, but suffers when her comedy suddenly turns into a drama. Admission doesn't have the smarts to pull it off.
As great and as likable as Tina Fey
is, she can only carry her new film, Admission
, so far. Director Paul Weitz
has been trying to recreate the mix of comedy and drama he pulled off in 2002's About a Boy
for a good decade now and it just hasn't happened. His first collaboration with Fey had promise, but Admission
is a predictable story heavy on the syrup that's surprisingly unfunny despite Fey and co-star Paul Rudd
, who's simply going through the motions here.
Fey stars as Portia Nathan, a Princeton admissions officer who's battling a co-worker (Gloria Reuben
) for a promotion while telling herself it's okay her live-in boyfriend (Michael Sheen
) of 10 years hasn't proposed yet. The story starts at the beginning of application season and Fey sets out on a road trip, meeting parents and teachers at different high schools. She gets the shock of a lifetime when the principal of an alternative school (Rudd) reveals one of his students may be her son (Nat Wolff
), whom she gave up for adoption years earlier. The news sends Portia into a tailspin and she ends up risking her job trying to get her son into Princeton while trying to figure out how to tell him she's his real mother.
The biggest problem with Admission
is its confusing cross-genre story. It starts off like a comedy, with Fey reading applications while a vision of the student appears in her office. When she crosses someone off, poof, they disappear also. Fey is awkwardly endearing as she plays the underdog to Reuben's overachiever in the race for the coveted Head of Admissions office. And, she's cute and pathetic when she goes home and plays second fiddle again, this time to a good book, when Sheen won't pay her any mind as her incumbent partner, Mark.
The fun continues when Fey sets off on a tour
of high schools which finds her living with Mom (Lily Tomlin
) when she visits a nearby school run by John Pressman (Rudd). Fey has her best scene when she goes into her scripted schpiel about Princeton and is continually interrupted by the free-thinking kids. She gets angry and the film could've used more of that, and less of the pushover Fey. It's during this visit the film goes soft. John tells her he matched up the date and birth time of a gifted student, Jeremiah (Wolff), and he thinks Portia is the mom. Stunned, Fey rejects the notion but is won over by John's charms and accepts that she is Jeremiah's mother, although neither of the adults tell the boy.
I was lost after that. Birth times, and charming strangers revealing big secrets? Everything in Admission
is a silly coincidence, conveniently puzzled together to form a weak narrative. Portia is dumped by Mark, for another woman, setting up the film's running gag where he randomly appears every time Portia's in a totally embarrassing situation. Admission
is built around Fey humiliating herself and it's more sad than funny.
Fey and Rudd have some chemistry but they're so forcefully pushed together by the weak story there's no real suspense to their courtship. So why include it all? This weak formula is what kills comedies. An actress like Fey thrives among friends, and here, she has none. She's strangely alone for most of the film and her relationships are forced and fake. She even hates her mom, who seems pretty funny and likable. There's one scene where she goes so far as to tell her to her face, a strange choice for a comedy.
The truth is Admission
isn't a comedy at all. It's not a romantic comedy. It's a TV drama masquerading as a film. It's not smart or self-aware enough to be funny and it wastes a fantastic comedic cast. Fey fans will enjoy watching her as usual. She doesn't do anything wrong, but she's showing weakness in her choice of movie material. Her last film was the brutal Date Night
and before that, The Invention of Lying
. For some reason, her TV success hasn't translated to the big screen...yet. She's too smart and sharp for it to last forever. Here's hoping there aren't many more Admissions
to tolerate before the big one.