“Admission” review: Tina Fey aces college comedy


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The college-admission process can be the stuff of nightmares. You can have the greatest grades in the world, but let’s face it: what really decides whether a potential student will be accepted generally remains a mystery. In “Admission,” director Paul Weitz (“About A Boy”) ventures beyond the admissions-office doors for a comedy that might not teach you how to get your child into an Ivy League school, but does offer one key element that makes it infinitely more interesting than any other college prep course: Tina Fey.

The talented “SNL” alum is one of Hollywood’s fastest-rising stars these days, and “Admission” casts her opposite Paul Rudd in this romantic comedy about a Princeton admissions officer who has a crisis of faith when she’s introduced to a quirky teenage prodigy who might be the son she gave up for adoption years ago. The film is based on the book of the same name by Jean Hanff Korelitz, a former reader for Princeton’s admissions program tasked with evaluating prospective students.

From start to finish, “Admission” is a film that feels tailor-made for Fey – and it’s no surprise that the screenplay was written with her in mind. Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan is essentially Liz Lemon (“30 Rock”) filtered through the tweed and sweater vests of Ivy League culture, equal parts smart and quirky, brilliant and awkward. Without the sort of personality Fey gives the character, Portia’s crisis of faith would never be believable, and both Fey and screenwriter Karen Croner do a nice job of first giving her a reason to believe in what she’s doing – and then giving her a reason to change.

“Admission” also benefits from an outstanding supporting cast headlined by Paul Rudd (“This Is 40”), whose chemistry with Fey makes it seem perfectly reasonable to want this duo to pair up for at least one movie together every year. They really are that good whenever they share a scene.

Also among the standouts in “Admission” is Lily Tomlin as Susannah, Portia’s razor-tongued, feminist mother who serves up some of the film’s best lines, as well as Nat Wolff, who finds the right balance of quirky brilliance as the teenage prodigy who may or may not be Portia’s child. Wallace Shawn and Michael Sheen do a fine job with the brief roles they’re given in the film, and fill out the performances nicely.

Even though “Admission” is saddled with the “romantic comedy” label, it’s worth noting that the film is more of the latter than the former, and lets the romantic element naturally spin out of the comedy rather than simply forcing two funny people together. Rudd and Fey’s relationship is a byproduct of events and not the main narrative of the film, and “Admission” is better for it.

To its credit, “Admission” manages to be a film that speaks to more than just the typical “date night” audience of parents and couples, and with any luck, will find that wide-reaching appeal validated at the box office. It’s not often a film comes along that’s just as much fun to watch with your parents as it is to watch with your partner or friends, but “Admission” is just that sort of film.

“Admission” hits theaters March 22. The film is directed by Paul Weitz and stars Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, Michael Sheen, and Nat Wolff.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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