Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Paul Weitz
Cast: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Nat Wolff, Gloria Reueben, Wallace Shawn, Sonya Walger
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Rating: PG13 ( Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw
Official Website:
Opening Day: 
25 April 2013  

Synopsis: Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Paul Rudd (This is 40) are paired for the first time on-screen in , the new comedy/drama directed by Academy Award nominee Paul Weitz (About a Boy, In Good Company), about the surprising detours we encounter on the road to happiness. Every spring, high school seniors anxiously await letters of college admission that will affirm and encourage their potential. At Princeton University, admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is a gatekeeper evaluating thousands of applicants. Year in and year out, Portia has lived her life by the book, at work as well as at the home she shares with Princeton professor Mark (Michael Sheen). When Clarence (Wallace Shawn), the Dean of Admissions, announces his impending retirement, the likeliest candidates to succeed him are Portia and her office rival Corinne (Gloria Reuben). For Portia, however, it‟s business as usual as she hits the road on her annual recruiting trip. On the road, Portia reconnects with her iconoclastic mother, Susannah (Lily Tomlin). On her visit to New Quest, an alternative high school, she then reconnects with her former college classmate, idealistic teacher John Pressman (Paul Rudd) – who has recently surmised that Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), a gifted yet very unconventional New Quest student, might well be the son that Portia secretly gave up for adoption years ago while at school. Jeremiah is about to apply to Princeton. Now Portia must re-evaluate her personal and professional existences, as she finds herself bending the admissions rules for Jeremiah, putting at risk the future she thought she always wanted – and in the process finding her way to a surprising and exhilarating life and romance she never dreamed of having.

Movie Review:

Every overachieving college-bound teenager bent on enrolling into Princeton is desperately seeking the secret formula to getting in, and admissions officer Portia (Tina Fey) has the answer. But trade secrets are not to be shared, for despite her sixteen years of experience, all Portia will reveal to eager youngsters with stellar GPAs is that "there is no secret". It’s a comfortable lie, much like her shortlived relationship with a live-in boyfriend / English teacher Mark (Michael Sheen) and the well-rehearsed spiel she reiterates when pitching Princeton to high-schoolers.

Portia advises a new colleague not to get too personal when evaluating these kids, because it only makes cutting them out that much harder, but things take an ironic turn when an ex-schoolmate John (Paul Rudd), head of a school in New England, rings her up. While kindling the flames of budding romance, he also introduces her to a gifted autodidact Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), whom he believes is the son she gave up for adoption after an unwanted pregnancy in college. She accepts his reasoning based on a copy of the boy’s birth certificate, perhaps also swayed by Jeremiah’s uncanny ability to match her mannerisms and preferences. The boy is highly well-read and clearly brilliant, yet disarmingly down-to-earth. In short, plainly likable.

Unfortunately, his goal of entering Princeton pits him against some of the nation’s most elite 18-year-olds. Jeremiah’s poor family background, abysmal early academic records and nonexistent extracurricular accomplishments overshadow his exceptional achievement in near-perfect SAT and Advanced Placement test scores in the absence of any formal classes. Here’s where the major theme of parenthood kicks in. Perhaps to compensate for lost time, or to make up for the misery of a childhood with her opinionated single mother Susannah (Lily Tomlin), Portia’s newly-awakened maternal instinct drives her to cross lines both corporate and personal to get Jeremiah admitted into Princeton.

Early on in the film, it is pointed out that one’s educational pedigree doesn’t necessarily dictate future success in life. Yet the entire endeavour that Portia undertakes to enroll Jeremiah into Princeton undermines that message; the assumption seems to be that he would be headed for failure if he gets admitted into another school that isn’t America’s second-best college.

Yes, director Paul Weitz (About a Boy, American Pie) is handling fairly heavy subjects. It’s serious business being an admissions officer, what with being the gatekeeper to the possible future paths of the next generation. Such a premise would probably be best suited for a drama instead of a light comedy, which this movie clearly sets out to be but fails to draw enough laughs. It’s a pity that Fey’s smart and witty Saturday Night Live persona(s) peek out only very occasionally when the screenplay (adapted from Jean Hanff Korelitz’s book of the same name) allows it. It may even have been intended as a romantic flick, but although Rudd and Fey look like an amicable couple, their chemistry is hardly credible and frankly lacklustre.

It’s a nice surprise that the supporting cast is more than able to hold their own: Tomlin is a scene-stealer as a fiercely independent feminist who happens to also be a distant mother, complete with tattoos and a penchant for not feeding her dogs; and Wolff’s quiet portrayal of Jeremiah makes you want to root for him to get admitted into his dream college.

Movie Rating:

(A comedy that is light on laughs and unexpectedly heavy on drama, Admission is mildly enjoyable, but mostly forgettable)

Review by Wong Keng Hui

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