Tina Fey’s first post “30 Rock” outing doesn’t hold much hope for a big opening weekend. Here’s our reviewer’s take. (Focus Features hasn’t invited us to a premiere or screening since 2003 at least, so we have to depend on the kindness of friends.) In another review, Joe Morgenstern writes in The Wall Street Journal that Admission “can be foolish, surreal, unpleasant…” He concedes, as do most reviewers, that Lily Tomlin steals the movie. “Admission” scores s 43% on Rottentomatoes.com.
Here’s our reviewer:
“Admission” is such a misfire on every level, especially in Karen Croner’s poor and unfunny script, that it’s hard to know where to begin in critiquing this mess of a movie directed by Paul Weitz. First let me say I love Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. Usually I feel they could no wrong. And then I wanted to like this movie because it’s so rare to find a movie where the central character is a woman. Too bad the story is so convoluted, and the woman so unlikeable.
Based on a novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, this is a hackneyed story about a seriously screwed up Princeton admissions officer, Portia, (Fey), who is up for a promotion and competing with her manipulative, shrewish colleague (an under-utilized Gloria Reuben in an unappealing role). Portia spends her days sifting through thousands of applications and traveling around the country talking to desperate teens competing for the few available slots at the Ivy League school. She’s romantically challenged and career obsessive. Sound familiar? (Calling Liz Lemon.)
Portia, who leads a very regimented life, is caught off guard when a guidance counselor from a new non-traditional high school tries to sell her on taking a gamble with a “prodigy” from his school, who scores well but gets bad grades. It turns out the do-gooder counselor (Rudd) thinks the prodigy is the kid Portia gave away in a secret adoption when she was a college student. She freaks out when he tells her. Do you follow this so far? Portia breaks every rule in the book to get the “prodigy,” who she thinks is her son, into Princeton.
Oh, and there’s also Portia’s unappetizing live-in professor boyfriend (Michael Sheen) who claims to abhor the idea of having children but then runs off with a fellow professor, who is now expecting his twins. (This side plot is too tedious to even get into.)
The laughs are few and far between. I don’t know if the director meant for it to be more of a comedy or a drama but it doesn’t work as either. You can see Fey is really trying to do some real acting, but there’s nothing to work with. There are no shades or subtleties in the character or the script. There are lots of winch invoking moments, like Fey’s character’s awkward sex scenes with Rudd. And then there’s Lily Tomlin, a pioneer in female comedy, who plays Fey’s feminist, free-spirited, hippy mother trying to reconnect with her daughter and spouting feministic rants, who also provides more reasons to winch, especially in her own awkward sex scenes that don’t advance the plot.
I really wanted to like this movie because it deals with serious themes about feminism, education and parenting but it just does not work. I certainly hoped and expected for more from Fey in her first post 30 Rock-acting role. I hope for her next movie she writes the script herself.