I’ve heard that the novel that was adapted into the film Admission is an excellent one. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the adaptation. “Portia Nathan” (Fey) is an admissions officer at Princeton who lives in a neatly ordered world. She has the man she wants, the house she wants and the job she wants is just around the corner. Her boss “Clarence” (Shawn) has announced he will be stepping down as Dean of Admissions at Princeton. He tells Portia and “Corrine” (Reuben) that they are his two “stars” and he expect to see one of them in his office next year.
Because she’s competing against Corinne and due to the fact Princeton has fallen from #1 to #2 in the U.S. News and World Reports’ ranking of colleges, she decides to accept the invitation of “John Pressman” to add The Quest School, a newly founded alternative school to her tour of Northeast private schools. Pressman was a college classmate of hers and he has a senior named “Jeremiah” who is an autodidact that managed to pass all eight Advanced Placement exams without taking the AP courses. His grades prior to moving to Quest suck and he’s had run-ins with the law. He is also the adopted child of two working-class people who never attended college.
Portia’s world is falling apart at this point. She’s in the competition of her life, her ten-year relationship ended when live-in boyfriend moved out (he’s impregnated the school’s Virginia Woolf scholar with twins) and John drops a bombshell. He believes that Jeremiah is the son that Portia gave birth to while in college, something she thought was a complete secret.
Suddenly she’s lost her moral compass, finding herself attracted to John and willing to move heaven and Earth to get Jeremiah into Princeton. John wants that, but also plans to leave on his next mission to save the planet, taking his adopted Ugandan son “Nelson” (Spears) to Ecuador. But Nelson doesn’t want to go. He wants some stability in his life and he sees Portia as a role model that John should follow. Meanwhile, Portia crosses ethical lines that admissions officers cannot cross.
A movie examining the fascinating world of the admissions processes of the elite universities would be great and Admission does a little of this. It uses an excellent device by making Portia appear to actually see the students whose applications she’s considering. But there’s not enough of this. A movie that provides romantic leads with great chemistry would be terrific, but Admission fails at that as well. The result is not good. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are immensely likeable and deliver strong performances. It just isn’t enough. The best parts of this film are Nat Wolff, Travaris Spears and Lily Tomlin as Portia’s mother.
Where did Admission go wrong? Probably in choosing Karen Croner to adapt the novel. Fifteen years ago, she did the big screen adaptation of Anna Quindlen’s wonderful “One True Thing” and it suffered in the process. The bottom line here is that Admission is probably best put onto your wait-list.