'Admission' is admittedly funny
MANILA, Philippines - While it looks like yet another in the endless march of rom-coms, all promising some quirky twist on the all-too-familiar format, "Admission" is an intriguing and entertaining film about schools, aspirations, and life.
It does visit some high-brow territory, often avoided so that movies can appeal to a larger audience, and becomes better for it. I will have to admit that a lot of the jokes to do with the academic life appealed to me, as I inhabit that world.
Still, I think that on the whole, while it paints a very specific picture, its themes will resonate well beyond the walls of the academe.
Tina Fey plays lead Portia Nathan, an admissions officer for Princeton. She has been doing the job a long time; she’s locked in a long term relationship with literature professor Mark, played brilliantly by Michael Sheen. Fans of "30 Rock" will get a kick out of this pairing, and literature nerds will love the smug obnoxiousness and the stereotypes that Sheen plays out so wonderfully.
Of course their domestic life takes a hit, just as Portia’s professional demands escalate. Not only is the new season of applications starting, but Princeton has dropped from top ranking to number two, and she is being considered for promotion once her boss retires. Amidst all this, an insistent teacher from an alternative school starts bothering her in a meet-cute way.
Paul Rudd’s John Pressman is yet another play on the Rudd stereotype: good looking, laid back, smart but not too smart, and warm-hearted. It seems like we will delve into all too familiar rom-com territory once this element is introduced. And yes, while there are many elements that come into play, and it hits a lot of familiar beats, the movie provides us with a fair amount of new and interesting things.
First off is the new world that it is portraying. While those in the academe are all too familiar with the stuffy-ness, the pretentiousness, and the over-inflated sense of importance that some institutions and individuals have, it’s funny and fresh to see it done in the film. Furthermore, while it deals with traditional institutions, it also takes a look at alternative schools which eschew the old educational structures and integrates learning into actual activities and applications.
Thus the film brings the discourse of education to a mainstream audience. Sure, most people will gloss over it, but I think the film is much richer for its introducing and engaging in the debate between old school/new school systems and how each works against or might benefit the other. There’s an excruciating sequence towards the end of the film when the admissions board sits down and starts judging students and you can’t help but feel the sense of injustice at the way that kids are boiled down to their grades and application forms.
This is one of the central themes that the film plays on, as Fey’s Portia is forced to put a face and a human being behind a specific application. Pressman is not only a good date and a nice match for Portia, even with Mark’s presence, but he has also figured out that one of his outstanding students, Jeremiah, played by Nat Wolff, might be Portia’s son whom she gave away for adoption years ago.
It’s a perfect little storm that is cooked around Portia as her personal life, work life, and past all collide to force her to reconsider what it is she has become, and what she plans to do from here on out. Fey doesn’t do anything new in her acting, but she’s playing yet another Liz Lemon role here, and it works because she knows what she does and she does it well.
Also fun are the interesting side stories. These might have felt shoehorned, and at times are clearly unnecessary to the development of the main story. Yet, they are effective as breaks and gags between possibly more serious fare. Though there are heavy issues being discussed, the film has a good rhythm and it knows when to shoot for moments of levity. One of the side bits has to do with Portia’s feminist mother, played by Lily Tomlin, and how she deals with life.
"Admission" definitely isn’t for everybody. It has a very narrow audience that it can speak directly to, and that in its primary (American) market.
But once you look beyond the immediate trappings of the Ivy League school and the experimental school, you see that the film speaks to much larger things that are relevant to everyone. It’s about acceptance, about learning about yourself even if you don’t want to, about confronting truths of situations which will inevitably cause you pain.
While it does these things, it remains sweet and light and funny. - Rappler.com
Carljoe Javier doesn't know why people think he's a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he's not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games... Then again, those people could be right.