Paul Weitz is known for directing movies that delve into themes of familial relationships, love and rediscovery of oneself, and his latest project, Admission, uses the same formula as it explores the inner mechanisms of the college admissions process while highlighting the anxieties of a prospective college student.
Tina Fey plays a by-the-numbers admissions officer at Princeton, in which she must weed out the best candidates to attend the second best university in the Northeast. Her character, Portia Nathan, lives a very comfortable and predictable life with her boyfriend Mark of 10 years (Michael Sheen), who literally treats her like a lap dog, frequently telling her how loyal she is. The couple never shows any intimacy on camera, breaks up early on in the script, and forces Portia to re-evaluate her priorities, needs and wants.
From then on, Admission goes through an identity crisis, as the direction of the plot shifts focus on that of a career-driven woman striving for a promotion at work, to a single woman with an open disdain for children suddenly welcoming the thought of motherhood, while attempting to find love again. This change of mind (and heart) occurs after Portia gets a random phone call from a college acquaintance known as John Pressman (Paul Rudd), the dean of New Quest – an alternative high school in New Hampshire. John has reason to believe that one of his oddball students is Princeton material, but his less-than-stellar academic record says otherwise. So in order to direct her attention toward Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), Pressman reveals that the certainly unique misfit might also be the long lost son she gave up for adoption 18 years ago. Naturally, her maternal instincts kicks in during an impromptu recruitment visit, and Nathan finds herself breaking all the rules to make sure he gets accepted. Calamity ensues and the outcome ends up being messy and somewhat hard to watch as Portia struggles to make life-changing decisions outside of the college admissions board.
Billed as a comedy, Karen Croner’s adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel is hardly a laughing matter, as it is peppered with conflict and minor touches of romance, but Fey and Rudd deliver acceptable performances despite having little room to flex their comedic muscles. And though Admission alluded to the idea that true happiness results from attending one of the best universities and having a very competitive job, viewers later find out that being yourself, letting go of your inhibitions and taking more risks are far more fulfilling than anything else.