Instead, “Admission” is a dramatic film with comedic undertones about a career oriented woman facing a mid-life crisis, who may or may not have just been brought into contact with the child she gave up for adoption back when she was in college.
Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is an admissions officer at Princeton University. She makes her living reviewing college applications, and determining whether or not the student in question is up to Princeton standards. She receives a call from John Pressman (Paul Rudd), a teacher at an alternative high school, to come visit his campus and meet with a student who will be applying to her school named Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff). When she does, she and Pressman hit it off, and an awkward romance ensues. Things get even more awkward for Portia when Pressman informs her that he thinks she’s Balakian’s biological mother. Pressman actually went to college with her long ago, and knew she had given up a baby for adoption, and now he has reason to believe that Balakian is that child.
This all happens at a difficult time for Portia. She’s having issues in her love life, problems with her mother (Lily Tomlin), and at work, her boss (Wallace Shawn) will be retiring, which opens up the top position in her department. She needs to be at the top of her game if she hopes to land his job.
My main issue with “Admission” is the marketing switcheroo, which I can’t stand. I suppose it makes sense, given that the stars are both comedians, to emphasize the film’s funny elements. And since they do have a romance in the film, why not pitch it as a romantic comedy? But the truth is that scales tip heavily towards the dramatic in this film, and the romance between Rudd and Fey isn’t the chief focus; Fey’s crumbling life, and her struggle to get the child she gave up for adoption into Princeton is.
Here’s what I always think about movies that pull the “Switcheroo”: If the studio thinks they would sell more tickets if they market it as something it’s not, it’s a great sign the movie sucks.
“Admission” certainly doesn’t suck, but it is perplexing as to what they were thinking making it. It’s funny, but not consistently so. It has a romance between the leads, but it’s not all that romantic. And finally, there’s a serious level of straight storytelling focusing on Fey’s character’s search for the truth, for emotional balance, etc… but it doesn’t have all that much weight. It felt to me like a movie that got pulled in several directions, and wound up losing any hope it might have had of being genuinely good if it had picked one and ran with it.
Again, it’s certainly not a terrible movie or anything, there certainly are mild comedic moments interspersed throughout that make the runtime more enjoyable, but it’s not something that I would recommend, either.