ADMISSION – The Review
Review by Barbara Snitzer
In the movie Admission, Tina Fey plays Portia, an admissions officer at Princeton University who opens her in-person presentations to potential applicants will this well-rehearsed tease:
“I bet you all want to know what the secret is to getting into Princeton.
Take out a pen and write this down: (Beat. Beat. Beat.)
There is no secret. Just be yourself.”
(Groans from applicants)
You will be emitting the same groan of disappointment if you see this movie.
Just as Portia teases high school seniors, a movie populated with established talent such as Ms. Fey, Paul Rudd, Lily Tomlin, directed by About A Boy’s Chris Weitz, and is set in the ripe-for- ridicule Office of Admissions of an Ivy League university promises to be a funny movie.
Beat. Beat. Beat.
It’s not. It’s an overambitious mess of mixed genres that ironically resembles the jam-packed transcript of an unqualified high school senior desperate to impress a college admissions officer.
The movie is based on the novel Admission by Jean Holff Korelitz, who, it turns out, once worked as an Admissions Officer at Princeton University! For Princeton’s sake, I really hope this is truly a novel.
Paul Rudd plays John Pressman who attended Dartmouth with Portia and as it happens, has created an alternative school where really smart kids read what they want and perform farm chores. Rudd is not only the only teacher and faculty member of the school, he is also a Svengali. Intoxicated by the intelligence by one of his farm boys, I mean students, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) whose intelligence was so great no other teacher in any other school could even recognize it.
Having benefitted from an elite education, John becomes Jeremiah’s Colonel Tom Parker. With Portia conveniently a portal to admission to Princeton, he can save Jeremiah from blue collar life and win Portia’s heart.
Never mind that Jeremiah has had straight Ds before he started milking cows for John. Never mind that John uses a two-decade old incident from their college days to manipulate Portia. Never mind that Portia, burdened said incident and vulnerable from breaking up with a stuffy professor Mark (Michael Sheen) that she should have seen wasn’t right for her anyway just like the audience could, engages in morally questionable subterfuge to do John’s bidding. Never mind that once John has gotten his star student into Princeton and gotten Portia in bed, he’s heading off to Ecuador to do more Good Things. Never mind what will happen to all the students at his Farm School.
It’s okay because John’s a Good Guy. We know that not only because he’s played by Paul Rudd, but because he has rejected a life of privilege to live in third world countries where he does Good Things.
He’s even adopted a very dark black boy, whom I’m sure he did not bring into the country like the scene in Bruno where his adopted black boy arrives on the luggage carousel.
John isn’t the only morally messy character in this movie. Lily Tomlin plays Susannah, Portia’s mother, who sends her adult daughter more mixed messages than an amputee typing Morse Code. She’s an über-feminist until a roll in the hay diminishes her hatred of men.
Ultimately, this is an embarrassing waste of great talent whose careers will stay intact- I speak of the actors; perhaps those behind the scenes should suffer the consequences. As for Princeton, hopefully this movie will self-destruct before it can taint the university.
Don’t admit yourself to Admission.
1/2 of 5 Stars