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‘Admission’ offers few laughs, and fewer connections

Admission” was a huge disappointment.  It had the potential to be an extremely heart-touching and endearing movie, but it fell short.  When it comes to romantic comedies, or in this case dramadies, what makes them work is the depth of the characters and the strength of their relationships.  In this film, both aspects were lacking.

Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is a Princeton admissions officer who risks her entire career to help Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff) get into Princeton.  Incidentally, Jeremiah may or may not be the biological son Portia secretly bore and put up for adoption while she was in college.  Portia is introduced to Jeremiah by John Pressman (Paul Rudd) who is Jeremiah’s teacher and Portia’s fellow Dartmouth College alum.

The other principal characters include Portia’s live-in boyfriend, Portia’s mother Susannah (Lily Tomlin), John’s adopted son Nelson (Travaris Spears), Portia’s boss Clarence (Shawn Wallace), Portia’s office rival and several other ancillary characters.

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Usually, Tina Fey can be counted on to be both cute and funny.  While she did have some hilarious moments, they were few and by the time they came around I was already bored with her.  Her characterization was lame and it lacked energy and commitment.

The same can be said for Paul Rudd, with one addition.  I have never been able to accept Paul Rudd as a leading man.  He is very talented and funny, but he lacks a certain quality necessary for a lead.  He’s much better supporting roles.  Even Lily Tomlin was a disappointment.  Her performance seemed to be more of a caricature than an actual character.

There were, however, two things that showed who these characters were and neither of them were the performances.  They were the costume design and production design.  Had it not been for these visual aspects of the film, I would have been clueless as to who these people really were.

The only characters that were fully realized were Clarence and Nelson.  Wallace Shawn’s portrayal of Clarence and Travaris Spears’ depiction of Nelson stood head and shoulders above the other actors.

The only thing I liked less than the shallow characters was the weakness of the relationships between the characters.

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To me, the two most important relationships in the movie were the Portia/Jeremiah relationship and the John/Nelson relationship.  It seems that someone decided to downplay these much weightier relationships to unnecessarily give Portia and John more screen time together.  Additionally, the relationship overload makes me question the editing.  There was a scene, integral to Portia’s development, in the latter part of the movie that would have made a lot more sense and been more powerful, if one or two of the secondary relationships had been left on the cutting room floor.

To be a relationship movie, “Admission” does a meager job of showing any relationships worth caring about.

 

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