Admission review

Billed as yet another comedy ostensibly concerned with the perils of modern parenting, Admission is never as sharp as you’d hope with Fey spearheading proceedings, but its charming cast and abundantly positive nature make it difficult to dislike.
Fey plays Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at Princeton whose work revolves around assiduously rejecting 99% of budding students and whose personal life is even more discerning. Time outside work consists of excruciatingly dull evenings with her long-term English-professor boyfriend (a brilliant cuckolded-cameo from Sheen), or equally dull daytime buffets with pretentious literary bores. Portia’s only other notable relationship is with her kooky mother Susannah (Tomlin), who single-handedly raised her after sleeping with an Italian man on a train and failing to ever ask his name or see him again. She rejects conventional parenting altogether, asking Portia to call her by her first name.

Portia has thus never truly let anybody in but, as the title hints, that all changes when John Pressman (Rudd) walks in to her life. Pressman, a former college classmate now heading up an unconventional school, offers up the double bombshell of romantic spark and the suspicion he’s found her adopted son in the form of dorky but brilliant student Jeremiah (Wolff). Will Portia now break every rule in her life to ensure she gets the guy and her kid gets into Princeton?

The answers to these questions and more aren’t especially interesting in themselves, but the film’s strength is that it gives its charming and believable characters room to breathe, meaning you care about the outcome, however contrived. At times the overbearing niceness of the leads can grate a little, with the best lines reserved for satirical Susannah and her Russian flame Polokov (Krupa): “I slept on the sofa ... your mother did too, we were too tired to make it to bed.” But Fey still fizzes with even half-baked material, glossing over the lack of chemistry between her and Rudd. Characters that could be simply eye-rolling stereotypes, such as autodidact Jeremiah, are relatable to the real world.
What you’re left with is a thoughtful and sweet meditation on modern life, and one that isn’t nearly as nakedly old-fashioned as some are suggesting. If you’re reading it as a simple morality tale where a career woman is unhappy until she embraces a man and her maternal instincts, then you’re missing all manner of subtleties and nuance. Don’t go in expecting belly laughs, but rather a fine drama with a few titters, and you won’t be disappointed.

Admission at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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