Movie review: “Admission”

admission


Partner and I saw “Admission,” with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, yesterday. Tina is a Princeton admissions officer; Paul is the hipster principal of a funky New Hampshire school that teaches cow-birthing and water purification alongside other subjects. Paul has a student he thinks ought to go to Princeton, and he contacts Tina, and –

 

 

Well, if I tell you that the movie is at least sixty percent romantic comedy, you can write the rest yourself.

 

 

It’s pleasant enough. There are some funny moments, and some well-acted moments. Tina is always funny and really very pretty, and Paul is an all-purpose romantic leading man: cute without being overwhelming, cheerful, smart. There’s a nice supporting cast, including Michael Sheen (who was one of Tina’s boyfriends on “30 Rock,” and who has wonderful anti-chemistry with her), Wallace Shawn (doing his funny squinting schtick, but always welcome), and Lily Tomlin (more on her later).

 

 

But the movie goes in too many directions. Sometimes it wants to be a commentary on college admissions; there’s a running gag that, when Tina or one of her colleagues reads an application, the applicant appears in physical form before them. All of them are good kids, one way or another. How do you choose between them?

 

 

But it muddles the issue. American college and universities can’t admit every applicant, so they try to balance everything: test results, transcripts, extracurriculars, essays, recommendations. They want the kids who are most likely to succeed. The movie tries to make this point, but then lets sentimentality fudge the issue. A minor character makes an icy comment early in the movie: “In England we rely on test results. Why can’t you do that here?” (She’s supposed to be a unpleasant person, so it’s assumed that she’s heartless, and we’re supposed to disagree with her. But: why not indeed?)

 

 

Also there’s a lot of foofaraw about parentage. Tina has an ambivalent attitude toward being a parent, and maybe has a kid, and maybe not. Paul has an adopted African son and a crazy alcoholic mother who thinks lawn jockeys are cute. Tina’s mother is an unrepentant 1960s feminist, of whom Tina is not very fond.

 

 

This is supposed to be interesting and meaningful. But: meh.

 

 

Overall, this movie is a minor effort.

 

 

Now let’s talk about Lily Tomlin.

 

 

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times pointed out that Tina Fey has a knack for being clear-eyed about what it means to be a feminist, both the positives and the pitfalls. On “30 Rock,” Tina created a comedy writer (played by Carrie Fisher) who was way ahead of her time, but who was now living nearly-penniless in a filthy apartment and was still writing 1970s-style comedy.

 

 

Lily Tomlin, playing Tina’s mother in “Admission,” is the ultimate 1960s feminist. When Tina walks into her mother’s house, the first thing you see is a poster of a fish riding a bicycle. (If this doesn’t immediately suggest anything to you, just Google “fish bicycle woman.”) Lily’s dogs are named Gloria and Betty. She has a tattoo with the word “Bella” on it. Just to show that some things never change, she has an “Occupy Wall Street” poster framed on the wall. Lily has a double mastectomy without thinking about it too much, and without telling her daughter Tina. “They said it was aggressive,” Lily says. “I’m aggressive too. So I got rid of it.”

 

 

I was paying attention to every moment Lily was onscreen. She made the movie worthwhile to me.

 

 

It’s not a great movie. But if you like Tina Fey, or Lily Tomlin, you should see this movie.

 

 

Because sisterhood is powerful.


 

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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

One Response to Movie review: “Admission”

  1. Kinda what I’d imagined. Probs will see it.

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