"You all want to know the secret formula for getting in. Of course everyone thinks we're sadists, that we like saying no. We are in this job for one reason, to say yes."
Paul Weitz became a household name in Hollywood after his successful 1999 comedy, American Pie, but everything he has directed since has been a bit of a let down for me. I haven't seen all of his films, but the ones I got to see were not actually good. I had higher expectations for Admission considering it had two of today's most successful comedy actors: Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. Tina is just so smart and hilarious, while Paul Rudd has great comedic timing and the pair usually choose their roles wisely. I guess this was one of those movies where the comedy worked more on paper, because on screen it really didn't. One may argue this wasn't actually supposed to be a comedy, but I didn't feel it worked well as a drama or a romantic film either. The characters weren't developed very well and I don't know why Tina Fey didn't just butt in and re write the entire script which would've helped this movie a lot. Tina Fey is such a great writer, I would simply let her write the entire dialogues for me. Admission is actually based on a novel written by Jean Hanff Korelitz and it was adapted for the screen by Karen Croner (who hadn't written a screenplay since 1998, One True Thing). It is a shame that the potential of these actors was put to waste here with such an awkward and weak script. Stay away from Admission, this is one film you won't want to be enrolling in.
Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) has spent the last 16 years of her life working at the admissions department for Princeton University. Her boss, Clarence (Wallace Shawn), is getting ready for his retirement so Portia is really looking forward to the promotion. The position could be hers or Corinne's (Gloria Reuben) since they both are the main admissions officers. Princeton has always ranked as the number one University students want to apply for, but this year they are number two. All Clarence wants before retiring is to leave on top so everyone is working overtime. Portia begins visiting several schools around the nation to look for the perfect candidates for Princeton. She receives a call from a former college classmate who is now overseeing an alternative school. John Pressman (Paul Rudd) wants her to come visit his school because there is a special kid named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) who he wants her to meet. Portia visits the school but doesn't think much of its students. The real reason why John invited her is because he believes that Jeremiah is Portia's son who she gave up in adoption during their college years. He asks Portia to get to know the kid without having to commit to anything because he hasn't mentioned anything to Jeremiah about her. When Jeremiah shows interest in wanting to go to Princeton, Portia will try to do her best to help him. Some complications and funny situations ensue as Portia's life begins to unravel when the man she's been living with for seven years (played by the talented Michael Sheen) bails on her for another woman.
The characters in this film are all pretty much stereotypes we've seen before. I think these stereotypes usually work in comedies, but this film was a little more serious. You have the classic elements were two co-workers begin competing for a same position, a man abandons his companion for another woman, and a romance ensues between two distinct characters with opposite personalities. Rudd and Fey are great actors but I really never believed the chemistry between them here despite their natural likability. The film doesn't work at any level really, not as a comedy and not as a romantic story. There are some funny moments but they are too few and too scattered through. The film is predictable although there are a few surprises here and there that you might not see coming, but they are just smaller details in an otherwise formulaic film. This isn't your typical slapstick college comedy, but it is rather predictable on the romantic side. There are a few witty and cultural jokes thrown in here and there, but it simply wasn't enough. Despite some interesting subjects tackled in the film, Weitz really doesn't take any risks and the film felt bland.