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MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Admission’

Cliched rom-com worthy of a rejection letter

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"Admission" is an off-kilter mish-mash of a romantic comedy that careens from cloyingly sweet to disarmingly bitter. It's a watchable, inoffensive date movie that suffers from a busy, multipronged plot and a lack of chemistry between the leads.

Tina Fey would seem tailor-made for the part of Portia Nathan. She's a high-achieving Princeton admissions officer who is looking to take over her department when her boss Clarence (Wallace Shawn) steps down. She's confident in her job but vaguely defeated by all other aspects of life. She's oblivious that her scholarly boyfriend Mark (Michael Sheen) is preparing to walk out on her for a colleague on the faculty, who is pregnant by him. She's largely estranged from her mother Susannah (Lily Tomlin), whose maternal instincts are eclipsed by her firebrand feminist militancy.

The edgy, wisecracking characters Miss Fey typically plays aren't haunted by regret. Portia, however, is troubled by thoughts of the infant she gave up for adoption while a college student. When she meets Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), an awkward, intellectually gifted boy with an indifferent academic record who just might be her son, she has to decide whether to throw her professional ethics aside and become his advocate. Miss Fey deals with the emotional content of the role the way she deals with the setbacks of a screwball comedy — blinking, tossing her hair and awkwardly bumping into things. It may be that she lacks depth as an actress, but I think it's more likely that the role of Portia — a career woman who discovers belatedly that she's missing out on family life — is too cliched to generate much interest.

She makes repeated trips from the Princeton campus to a rustic alternative school in New Hampshire where students tend livestock while reading the classics. There she meets teacher, do-gooder and all around sweetheart John Pressman — a part tailor-made for the likeable Paul Rudd. As with most of Mr. Rudd's characters, John leaves little to the imagination. He's driven by his desire to help the unfortunate, and run away from his privileged upbringing.

The movie has a few twists and turns, but it's not a major spoiler to disclose that Portia and John are drawn to each other. It's meant to be a classic union of opposites: Portia is the uptight careerist who needs to loosen her corset to breathe; John is the itinerant hippie who must learn that he can't run away from himself. In fact, both are really perishing bores who get together because the genre commands it, not out of genuine attraction.

★★ 

TITLE: "Admission"

CREDITS: Directed by Paul Weitz; screenplay by Karen Croner, based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz

RATING: PG-13 for language and sexual situations

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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