The Big Screen
1:31 am
Fri April 5, 2013

Movie Review: Admission

You might see the trailer for Tina Fey’s new movie Admission and think, “oh, a nice comedy.” Sorry, but no. It’s at best a “dramedy.” Tina Fey plays an assistant admissions officer at Princeton University, a position she’s had for sixteen years. The head of the department is about to retire, and Fey is in direct competition with snarky Gloria Reuben to take over. Along the way toward that goal, she meets people who, in effect, turn her life upside down, and she has to face her past and assume some responsibility. Hence, the title Admission has a double meaning. It refers not only to her vocation, but she must own up to her errors in life.

Tina Fey is a fine actor, but here seems bogged down by the material. Sure, there are a couple of funny things in the film, but some of those funny things seem to be an afterthought in order to have something funny to put in the trailer. There’s at least one scene in the trailer that’s not in the film, so that suggests some post-production tinkering. But all the editing didn’t help; as Admission has a scatter-shot feel to it that is quite annoying. 

There is a whole bunch of characters that touch Fey’s life, some of whom are interesting, others not so much. Paul Rudd as the guy who enters the picture is about as dull and generic as such a character can be. Veterans Lily Tomlin, as Fey’s mother, and Wallace Shawn, playing the retiring head of the admissions office, are always a pleasure to watch and are most welcome relief to have around. 

But the real culprit here is the script, which tries to cram twenty pounds of emotion into a two-pound bag. Many plot points are telegraphed miles ahead so that surprises rarely exist in our star’s voyage of discovery. Had this film been made thirty years ago, the lead would have been what might have been called the “Sally Field role.”

There is one imaginative scene set at the admissions department meeting in which the incoming applicants are approved or denied. I don’t want to give it away, as this scene is one of the best in the film. But the joys in Admission are few and far between. You may want to consider this as a possible DVD rental some evening when you have nothing else to do, as it will benefit from the presence of a fast-forward button.

The PG-13 rated Admission is now showing in the usual plexes. And before I finish this morning, I just want to say a couple of things about the death of one of the best friends the movies ever had: film critic Roger Ebert, who finally lost a lengthy battle with cancer this past Thursday. Whether you agreed with his reviews or not, they were always a pleasure to read, or watch when he was still on weekly TV, and were always honest and insightful. Many years ago, I had the great pleasure of dinner one evening with Roger and filmmaker Russ Meyer, for whom Roger had written the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. As you might expect, it was a wonderful experience, for which I will always be grateful. Farewell, Roger Ebert. You were a much-admired national treasure.