Admission Gets A “Passing” Grade

Courtesy:  Focus Features/Universal Studios

Courtesy: Focus Features/Universal Studios

Tina Fey’s latest starring vehicle, Admission is a surprisingly entertaining movie for a romantic dramedy.  The movie is on the surface just another typical boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  But on a deeper level, it’s more than that.  Presented in this story, audiences are introduced to a woman who is quite the go-getter of an admissions officer at Princeton University, one of America’s elite universities.  She has no husband.  But she does have a long-term boyfriend.  And surprise surprise, she also has a long lost child.  Here’s where things get really interesting.  The identity of said child becomes just one of a handful of twists that no one would have ever seen coming.  And it is those twists, along with Portia’s own personal revelations that make this the surprising story that it is.  The movie’s cast is just as much to thank for the story’s enjoyment, too.  The current slate of sequels and otherwise brainless flicks that have polluted theaters this year only serve to heighten the enjoyment of this movie.  They heighten its importance and work with this last factor to explain even more why Admission is both a romantic dramedy and general movie worth at least one watch.

The main star of Admission is not so much any one member of the cast, but the writing.  Writer Karen Croner’s story was largely panned by critics and general audiences alike when it debuted in theaters in early 2013.  The seemingly common thread between the movie’s criticisms was its casting.  There’s no denying that the pairing of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd didn’t work.  Fey should be commended for making the effort, though.  That’s because she did in fact pull off her role relatively well.  But that will be discussed at a later point.  At this point, the movie’s writing takes center stage so to speak.  As touchy as the casting was, Karen Croner deserves some credit for having crafted a story that turns out to be anything but the standard romantic dramedy.  Sure, the boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  And there’s even a reference to the far too over used romantic airport finale, even that turns out to be quite the surprise.  As the near two hour movie progresses, audiences learn that the movie is less about Portia’s growing romance with John and more about her own personal growth.  The main story is centered on Portia’s personal growth and having to come to terms with her past and how it is directly tied in to the woman that she had become.  The story takes a very realistic element of life and mirrors it in her life in this movie in a fashion that both entertains audiences and moves them.

There are plenty of laughs along the way over the course of Portia’s personal growth.  At one point, she even offers to go toe-to-toe with one of her co-workers over the file of a young man whom she believes to be her son.  The co-workers is one with whom she is competing for the chance to take over as Dean of Admissions at Princeton since their boss, Clarence (Wallace Shawn—The Incredibles, Chicken Little, The Princess Bride, The Cosby Show) is retiring at the end of the academic year.  It’s one of a handful of funny moments that is included throughout the story.  And Portia’s dialogue with her co-worker is what really makes the moment so funny.  She asks her co-worker if she wants to go outside and see just how touchy she is as she throws up her fists.  It’s a wonderfully hilarious moment that once again really exhibited Fey’s comic chops.  This scene is sure to get plenty of laughs from audiences.  By direct contrast, the more emotional moments written into the movie really hit hard as Portia begins to realize what she really gave up when she gave up her child for adoption.

The story’s more emotional moments are wonderful additions to Admission’s script.  They are a good juxtaposition to the more comical moments peppered throughout the story.  And Fey’s interpretation of those more emotional and comical moments plays right into another of the movie’s positives. She does an impressive job of interpreting the scripts in her acting, which is another of the movie’s positives.  She had already proven herself when she starred alongside Steve Carell in Date Night.  Now she’s taken her acting chops up a notch this time out.  This is even despite starring alongside Paul Rudd.  Rudd does next to nothing to enhance the movie.  This is the case even in scenes placing him alongside Fey.  By contrast, her partnership with Carell in Date Night worked far better.  Whereas Paul Rudd didn’t work by himself or even with Tina Fey, his young co-star, Travaris Spears, is a joy to watch.  Thank goodness for his inclusion in the story.  Both in his comedic moments and slightly more serious moments, Spears shines as John’s adopted son, Nelson.  Some of his best lines come with Portia.  Audiences won’t be able to help but laugh when Nelson makes jokes at Portia’s expense about her being dull and predictable.  There’s just something about his delivery that makes these jokes worth every laugh.  By comparison, his more serious moments are just as powerful.

Tina Fey and Travaris Spears are the real stars of Admission in terms of its cast.  That’s not to say that leading star Nat Wolff didn’t do a good job as Jeremiah.  His role was integral in the story.  But it felt difficult to connect to Jeremiah on an emotional level.  Thankfully his chemistry with Fey’s Porta offset that lack of connection, and helped audiences connect even more to her.  To that end, Wolff was a good choice to fill Jeremiah’s shoes.  His was a choice that along with Tina Fey and Travaris Spears, helped to make Admission more bearable than it could have been.

Admission is a movie that is worth at least one watch, whether one is a fan of rom-coms and romantic dramedies or not.  That is thanks in large part to the story’s writing and to its casting.  Sure, not the entire cast was too well cast.  But having Tina Fey and Travaris Spears on board was the right choice.  Their interpretation of the scripts really helped to move the story along.  There is one more factor to consider in this movie’s success.  It is a comparison of this movie to the rest of the movies that have been churned out so far in 2013.  Considering that most of the movies that have come to theaters in 2013 have been either sequels or generally dumbed down flicks, Admission actually holds its own quite well against them.  It’s a romantic dramedy.  But it’s less romantic dramedy than it is a story of one woman’s personal growth and revelations.  It doesn’t play out to the far too perfected formula of so many other movies in its genre.  That’s probably another reason that it was panned by viewers and critics.  But it’s also exactly what makes it so much better than its counterparts.  It doesn’t fit nicely into that mold.  Because of that and the acting and casting combined, it becomes a movie that is worth at least one watch whether alone or as a couple.

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