By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the novel by Jean Hanff Koelitz, screenwriter Karen Croner’s film adaptation is a bit messy. Directed by Paul Weitz, the film pushes for a more comedic angle than the novel that inspired it. The mix of drama and comedy works okay, but a romantic comedy subplot involving characters Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) and John Pressman (Paul Rudd) feels somewhat tacked on and forced, particularly when a last minute twist sets up a conflict in the relationship. While enjoyable at times, because of the comic timing of Fey and Rudd, the film version of Admission tries to cover too much ground in a short amount of time and feels as scatterbrained as some of the characters.
For sixteen years, Portia Nathan has worked as an admissions officer for Princeton University. When John Pressman, a teacher at an experimental school, aggressively promotes a brilliant student named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) in an attempt to win her approval, Portia’s life and career implodes. Pressman not only wants to get Jeremiah admitted to the prestigious university, he also wishes to acquaint him with Portia who might just be his biological mother.
The film does offer some charming entertainment, courtesy of the talented cast, but has a problematic structure. The last acts feel like last minute additions and modifications and don’t particularly flow well. The humor doesn’t always work. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd who are experts in awkward comedy perform well, but the material they are given often plays out more awkwardly than funny. When the humor does work, it does deliver hearty laughs and charmed grins. The film does have its cute and adorable moments, but falls into the usual clichés when in romantic comedy mode.
To the cast’s credit, they all offer fine performance despite the script’s woes. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd do share a sweet chemistry on screen and make an adorable couple. Nat Wolff does an excellent job as the brilliant, but scatterbrained Jeremiah. I look forward to seeing him work in more film or television projects. Another young talent in the film is Travaris Spears who portrays John Pressman’s adopted son Nelson. The film also features appearances by Wallace Shawn, Gloria Reuben and Lily Tomlin. I particularly enjoyed Tomlin’s performance as Portia’s tough feminist mother Susannah.
I wouldn’t recommend spending money to see this film in the theater at all. This film would make a light and entertaining rental for a date at home. Though enjoyable at times, there are other better films that deserve the box office receipts more.