I’m thankful for Paul Weitz’s Admission. As we approach the end of the studio’s winter dregs, it’s refreshing to find a comedy that’s smart, sweet-hearted and ultimately made for honest-to-goodness adults. Admission does a ton right: an intelligent script, pleasant tone and a cast that plays to its strengths. That it does nothing spectacular is unfortunate, but a solid Hollywood picture right now is such a rarity that it deserves praise.
Admission stars Tina Fey as Portia, a Princeton admissions officer who lives a contented life and is up for promotion, and who’s also in a comfortable but unexciting relationship with Mark (Michael Sheen), the head of the English department. But Portia’s quiet life takes a turn when Mark leaves her for an overbearing Virginia Woolf scholar (TV actress Sonya Walger), and — more importantly — when she discovers that a boy named Jeremiah (Nat Wolff, New Year’s Eve) might be the son she gave up for adoption 18 years ago. To complicate matters even more, it turns out that Jeremiah wants nothing more than to get into Princeton even though he’s far from the ideal candidate.
The film centers on Portia’s complications, from her sudden motherly instincts kicking in as she tries to sneak Jeremiah into Princeton to her sudden romantic entanglements with Jeremiah’s globe-trotting humanitarian teacher, John (Paul Rudd). The bulk of the film is formulaic — falling into the usual rom-com pitfalls. However, there’s a good amount of quirk to the characters — like Portia’s feminist, wholly independent mother (Lily Tomlin) — but the film is never overbearing or distracting, and everyone’s characters are handled humanely (and with heart). It helps that the movie is nearly perfectly cast. Even Rudd, who gets stuck in smug roles too often these days is likable and lives up to his reputation.
Basically, we get a movie that’s solidly crafted, well-acted and sometimes surprising. But, at the same time, it’s missing something that makes it special. Weitz, who’s had an uneven filmography that’s often interesting and occasionally flirts with greatness, has made another film that fits perfectly inside that modus operandi. Perhaps he’s less concerned with making a spectacular movie, and is more interested in making a really good one. At a time when simple competence is at a premium, sometimes good enough really is good enough. Rated PG-13 for language and some sexual material.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher Cinema 7