ADMISSION (Paul Weitz, 2013)
ADMISSION ought to be credited as the film that made college admission deliberations exciting. It's as if the whole film is riding on that particular scene, and like Tina Fey's character, we grip as tight as we can and cross our fingers.
Kudos to Tina Fey for showcasing a side that we haven't seen yet. Sure her sarcasm fires aplenty, and it still feels like we are watching Liz Lemon, but Tina Fey manages to surprise when her character, Portia Nathan has to deal with long-unresolved family issues, unleashing unimaginable amount of anger, and disappointment.
In fact, Fey's character Portia, an admissions officer at Princeton is the unexpected antihero, because she might come off as nice and charming, but her moral foundations will prove to be a surprise. Of course, Portia is as human as anyone, but as one viewer lamented after watching this movie, "it made me feel sad, after all".
ADMISSION starts off light as a breeze, with occasional laughs, mostly from Tina, and when it's not her, it's Lily Tomlin who plays her onscreen mother whose firing one-liners. Fey and Tomlin share perfect onscreen chemistry, and because ADMISSION is a story about parents and children, it is mightily important for the audience to connect with the characters to which the film handsomely achieves.
At first, Portia might seem like she's got it all together- a decent job, an intellectual boyfriend (Michael Sheen) and the promise of a promotion. Her only flaw was that she seems devoid of any maternal instinct, incapable of child rearing so it seems. So when the news comes from a former classmate (Paul Rudd) who teaches at an alternative university that one of his students may have been the child she gave up for adoption many years ago, she's quickly in denial but every brain cell of hers works around the idea that the claim may actually be true. The ensuing events range from crazy to outrageous to heartwarming.
Paul Weitz masterfully directs this gem of a movie, balancing humor with drama in such a way that it is not another sob story, or a raucous comedy made entirely for laughs. The admissions exam is a biting satire for Portia's admission of the fact whether or not she can mother a child, and as it turns out, Portia having to face her need for acceptance as well.
There's one element though I cannot wrap my head around- the Virginia Woolf-obsessed mistress character who is so horrible she belongs in the next Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer movie (DISASTER MOVIE/ VAMPIRES SUCK). Forego that and you're good to go.