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Movie Review: Admission

March 29, 2013

Admission PosterAdmission – A Focus Features Release

Release Date: March 22nd, 2013

Rated PG for mature themes and language

Running time: 107 minutes

Paul Weitz (dir.)

Karen Croner (screenplay)

Based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Stephen Trask (music)

Tina Fey as Portia Nathan

Paul Rudd as John Pressman

Nat Wolff as Jeremiah

Travaris Spears as Nelson

Lily Tomlin as Susannah

Michael Sheen as Mark

Wallace Shawn as Clarence

Gloria Reuben as Corinne


©Focus Features.  All Rights Reserved.

Portia Nathan (Tina Fey), Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) and John Pressman (Paul Rudd) in Admission.

Our reviews below:


Admission Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

There is something comforting about Admission, the new film from director Paul Weitz starring Paul Rudd and Tina Fey.  Maybe this isn’t the highest praise I could give, but by comforting I mean that this is nothing more than a likeable and warmhearted film, and I found it kind of refreshing to leave the theatre having thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is an admissions officer for Princeton, who is tasked with reading through the applications of students to see if they qualify for the university, rejecting most of the files practically as soon as they come in.  But then she gets a call from John Pressman (Paul Rudd), who oversees an alternative high school where the prodigious Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) discovered a voracious love of learning, and is now pulling in better grades than many of his teenaged counterparts.  He wants to continue his education, but complications ensue when John tells Portia that Jeremiah might just be the son that she gave up for adoption back in her own college days.

There are a few moments where the film plays better as drama than comedy with a couple of odd shifts between the two, but it’s hard to find a scene that doesn’t work unto itself.  Some people might also have mixed feelings about a realistic twist in the last act, but it actually works and keeps things from feeling too convenient.  The scenes at the alternative school, where John lives with his adopted son Nelson (Travaris Spears) are some of the best in the film, and the writing is at its sharpest when satirizing the post-secondary education system and the exhaustive application process.  Lily Tomlin is a standout of the supporting cast, adding multiple layers of hilarity to her role as Portia’s eccentric mother.

The screenplay provides some nicely written scenes, but it is the actors who ultimately make Admission worth seeing.  This is a thoroughly enjoyable romantic dramedy that is worth seeing for the likeable performances from Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, two excellent comedic actors who are both incredibly appealing on screen together, and there really is something comforting about that.


Admission Review by Erin V.  

*** (out of 4)

In Admission, Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan – an admissions officer at Princeton University.  Her job?  To go through the applications for new students and find the 1% that should be accepted.  But then she gets a call from John Pressman (Paul Rudd), who oversees a new alternative school called Quest, inviting her to check out their campus and give information about university to his students.  One student in particular he wants her to meet – Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff), who John believes just may be her long lost son.

What follows is a fairly funny romantic comedy.  Sure, there are contrivances, but Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are both funny and likeable here, and fans of them will certainly want to check this one out.  Personally, I found it a perfectly enjoyable film with just the right amount of satirizing the oftentimes ridiculously hard university admission process.


Admission Review by Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Based on the book by Jean Hanff Korelitz, Admission takes a critical look at university application policies.  Princeton University’s Portia (Tina Fey) is an admissions officer, and most of her days consist of denying admission to the prestigious school.  She is also a salesperson of sorts, advertising Princeton to high schoolers.

But Portia’s world gets turned upside down when John Pressman (Paul Rudd), a teacher at a vocational school, invites her to visit his class.  The school focuses on ecology, featuring an organic dairy farm and teaching water conservation.  One of Pressman’s students, a bright young man named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) has his heart set on Princeton.  Strangely enough, his birth certificate also seems to match up with the son that Portia gave up for adoption eighteen years before.  After realizing this, she will fight against all odds to get Jeremiah into Princeton.

One of the things I liked about Admission is that it celebrates people who are free thinkers.  Many students at Pressman’s school think outside the box, most even question the need for university in a cleverly spoken argument.  However, the universities make it hard for anyone other than their preferred cookie cutter type personalities to get in, even if they want to.  Kids with “learning disabilities” such as the self taught Jeremiah, kids from Aboriginal communities, or anyone who thinks differently gets shut out.  Only the kids with certain grades, ideologies and personalities get in.

Admission is funny, clever, well acted and full of heart.  This movie is worth the price of admission.


Admission Review by Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Filling out college and university applications is a rite of passage for many people.  But it would be so much easier if you had an inside track as to how the admissions process really works.

Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan, a play-by-the-rules admissions officer at the prestigious Princeton University.  There’s a lot of stress in the admissions office, with her boss Clarence (Wallace Shawn) wanting to get Princeton’s ranking back to number one, and co-worker Corinne (Gloria Reuben) competing against Portia for Clarence’s job once he retires.  But the main source of stress comes from the fact that Princeton’s admissions team has to deny admission to the majority of their applicants.  Most students are simply not good enough for Princeton.

Portia’s stress levels increase dramatically when she finds out her longtime professor boyfriend, Mark (Michael Sheen) has been two-timing her.  Then a secret from her past comes back and changes her life, when John Pressman (Paul Rudd), the director of the alternative and organic Quest school invites Portia to give a presentation about Princeton.  There she meets his star pupil, the brilliant and mostly self-taught former special ed. student Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), who John believes to be the son that Portia gave up for adoption in college.  Portia does everything she can to get Jeremiah into Princeton.

Predictably, a romance blossoms between Portia and John with encouragement from John’s adopted from Uganda son, Nelson (Travaris Spears).  The students from New Quest school provide some of the funniest moments in the film, with their anti-establishment opinions about Princeton.  But the comic highlight of Admission is Lily Tomlin as Portia’s off-the-grid and independent thinking feminist mother, Susannah.  The scenes between mother and daughter are brilliant.  Tina Fey and Lily Tomlin make a good comic team, and the strong cast overall is what makes Admission fun to watch.

The movie does have some problems transitioning between comedy and drama, but it does have a heart and the performances make it worth watching.  Tina Fey fans will find her character very entertaining and the overall theme of being open to those who live and learn differently had me smiling.  Admission is enjoyable, light entertainment that will appeal to adults of all ages, including seniors.


Admission Review by Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Admission tells the story of Portia Nathan (Tina Fey), an admissions officer for Princeton University. The chair (Wallace Shawn) of the committee screening the tens of thousands of applicants for fewer than 1500 freshman positions is about to retire, and Portia is competing with Corinne (Gloria Reuben) for his job. After graduating from Dartmouth in the same class as Portia, John Pressman (Paul Rudd) worked on development projects in various countries and in Africa adopted a boy named Nelson (Tavaris Spears), now in the sixth grade in a rural alternative school that John currently runs. John invites Portia to add his school’s first senior class to her rounds of school visits.

John introduces Portia to his most brilliant student, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), an eccentric auto-didact who in public schools had terrible grades but at the new school got near-perfect scores in standardized tests, including several Advanced Placement exams for courses that he hadn’t even taken. Despite Jeremiah’s poor prospects on paper, Portia will try her best to get him into Princeton, partly because, according to records found by John, she is likely his birth mother.

Portia’s life is further complicated by her eccentric mother (Lily Tomlin) who had long ago given up her own academic life for an isolated home not far from John. Finally, Mark (Michael Sheen), an English professor and Portia’s partner of over a decade leaves her for a Woolf scholar (Sonya Walger) who is carrying his twins.

Admittedly, Admission strains credulity at times with its coincidences, but the witty script carried by the fine cast led by Tina Fey pulls it off with charm. The director Paul Weitz uses some unusual touches, such as the virtual appearance of various applicants as they are being considered and their dropping out of the picture when rejected. Finally, the story is not as predictable as it seems at first, with some nice twists in the last act.


Consensus: With likeable performances from Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, Admission is an appealing romantic dramedy that has a few awkward shifts between genres, but provides a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  **3/4 (Out of 4)

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