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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

Review: Clever script and cast carries college-admission film

”Admission” makes the grade with humorous acting and a witty screenplay but falls short in direction with its sloppy editing.

The film’s plot centers on Portia Nathan (Tina Fey), who works as a college admissions officer at Princeton University. Following a series of setbacks to her life plan, including the end of her relationship with her long-term boyfriend, Portia begins to lose control of her life. At the same time, John Pressman (Paul Rudd), a founder of an alternative high school, asks Portia to visit his institution to introduce Portia to Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), a child prodigy whom John believes is Portia’s son.

One of the film’s strongest aspects is its screenplay, written by Karen Croner and based off Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel of the same name. Croner’s script stands out because it avoids the expected cliches in dialogue and plot structure, which often wreak havoc in films of the romantic genre. The only issue with the screenplay lies in its problematic pacing. Many scenes in the beginning of the story feel rushed, which diminishes the significance of many of the characters’ story arcs during the first half of the film.

Much of the film’s success stems from the believable relationship between its two stars, Fey and Rudd. The actors have a remarkable chemistry that manages to come off as sentimental without crossing into sappy territory.

Aside from the relationship the two actors share on screen, both of the veteran comedians also shine individually. Fey provides many of the film’s most quotable lines as her character reacts to the crazy turns she experiences, just as she does with her “30 Rock” character, Liz Lemon. Rudd gives his character charm, which helps to win over the hearts of audiences. Even when he shows his character’s shortcomings, Rudd still delivers his signature boyish appeal, and his good-guy persona manages to ensnare the audience’s adoration.

Also of note is Lily Tomlin, who plays Portia’s feminist mother, Susannah. Tomlin contributes to several hilarious scenes, which usually involve her animosity toward the male sex. At the same time, Tomlin also manages to insert emotion in unexpected places. When she reconnects with her daughter, the tender moment proves to be enchantingly heartwarming.
The film’s direction, by Paul Weitz, does not share the same high quality as the acting and suffers from its hurried pacing. Weitz’s main problems are his frequent uses of quick screen cuts and few pauses to let the film’s emotional moments sink in. Weitz’s established pace prevents character development, and only the characters’ actions are able to fully land with the audience. While this change of pace may have been effective in some of Weitz’s previous projects, such as the “American Pie” series, its presence in “Admission” leaves the film feeling rushed.

The memorable acting and writing in “Admission” proves to be of a high enough caliber to save the film from its poorly paced directing. Though the film may not be a modern classic, it certainly is worth seeing for any wishing to experience an emotional and humorous story.

Two and a half stars.

Sloppy editing does not prevent actors Tina Fey and Paul Rudd from excelling in heartwarming comedy, “Admission.”