Wolff Shines in Amusing “Admission”

By Matt Conway 03.28.2013 blog

The great Tina Fey and Paul Rudd team up in Admission. Personally, I am a huge fan of Tina Fey. Fey reinvigorated the Golden Globes with Amy Poehler, wrote one of the best teen films of all time, Mean Girls, and created one of this generations best television shows 30 Rock. Yet, Tina Fey has had a hard time on the silver screen. Besides Mean Girls, Fey has starred in several lukewarm vehicles like Date Night, Baby Mama, Invention of Lying, and Megamind,that have all failed to use her talents.

Paul Rudd is in a bit of a different situation. Rudd has had a career of consistent good performances in his films, but many failed to find any traction with audiences. What’s more, Nat Wolff, who many may know from his Nickelodeon show The Naked Brothers Band, plays a vital role in the film. After disappearing it seems after the show flamed out in 2009, Wolff has expressed an interest in acting, and has several different project lined up the near future. While the trio of each had their fair share of struggles, they team up here to create a rather solid flick.

The film tells the story of Portia Nathan, who has settled into a rather banal life, serving as an admissions officer at Princeton, but she’s in line for a big promotion. Portia decides to risk her career, when she meets Jeremiah, a prodigy who might also be her son.

Admission is schmaltzy and predictable, but also rather cozy and warm. While it could have been a much better flick, considering the talent, it overall as an interesting slice of life tale.

Where this film differentiates from the typical romantic comedy is in its cast. Tina Fey is as charming as she has ever been, and just feels so natural on the big screen. Fey’s quick wit and endearing screen presence makes her the perfect lead for any film, she is just so easy to root for. In Admission, I think she gives one of her better performances on the silver screen, as she is given more opportunity to show her dramatic acting chops. Paul Rudd co-stars with her, and has that same natural presence onscreen. He just feels so relaxed and comfortable whenever he is acting, which is why he is one of the best comedic actors working today. This performance is more of the same from him, as he is always just great in all of his movies.

The most surprising element of not only the cast, but the entire film, was Nat Wolff. Wolff actually does a rather solid job here, and I expected for him to really bring this film down. His quriky Jeremiah is played nearly perfectly, having the right amount of quirk to make him unique, but not too much to make him a caricature of sorts. The fact Wolff is able to find that balance takes skill, and Wolff has a future in acting if he can keep this up.

The film isn’t as focused on making laughs, but when it goes for jokes, most of the time, they work. While most of Admission is full of only chuckle worthy jokes, there are a good amount of them throughout the film. Ranging from a rather clever running joke with Portia’s ex-boyfriend, played by Michael Sheen, or to the natural comedy talents of Fey and Rudd, there are some solid laughs that work well with the film. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a film focus on more tame comedy rather than more raunchy comedy, especially for older audience oriented films.

What Admission mostly focuses on is building its pathos, and in the end, its pathos works rather well. The convincing nature of the actors, along with the likability of the talent, and well developed characters makes the emotional aspect hit home. The message of having a second chance isn’t a new or unique one, but one that fits with the story well, and is convincingly told here.

The film also suffers in several ways, mainly how familiar most of the material feels. As much as Fey and Rudd give good performances, romantically, they just don’t quite connect together, which is a major problem. The two have a rather shallow relationship, and despite the two being the main stars of the film, they just lack an interesting chemistry. Personally, I blame this on the screenplay, which doesn’t give their relationship much depth besides the typical romantic comedy romance.

Another problem I had was one of the film’s major twists in the third act. It goes off the map, but the twist doesn’t feel justified, as it mostly just teetered out the running time, and added unnecessary extra conflict. While the film saves itself in its finale, the twist in the film derailed the start of the third act, and I think overall weekend its pathos.

Admission is overall a successful romantic comedy, but derails itself by not quite trying enough to do anything more interesting with its characters.

Grade: B-

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