Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Admission

Film #456

THE PLOT

A Princeton admissions officer who is up for a major promotion takes a professional risk after she meets a college-bound alternative school kid who just might be the son she gave up years ago in a secret adoption.

Year 3, Film #6

THE GOOD: As The Recruit did in terms of showing the CIA training process, an area which is often never looked at in depth, Admission does here with the application process that everyone who goes to college has to deal with. I’m not saying that I ever looked forward to or desired a film about one of the most annoying parts of my high school career, but I have to say that the story in Admission did a great job with it. Yes, a large focus was on the application process itself, from the point of view of an admissions officer — Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) — but it also connected on the more personal level of “What’s the secret to getting in to college?” It’s something every student wants to know and would certainly make junior year much more pleasant, but at the same time, as with all hard things in life, it is like a rite of passage that you must conquer.

Admission gets both of those points of view told very well, from both sides of the issue. Portia is the admissions officer, and she decides the fates of all these kids. You see the struggle she goes through internally as she makes her decisions about the students, done in an interesting (though very effective) way — showing the student in the background, almost like a dream sequence only taking place in reality. But she also represents the other side of trying to get someone through the process. After she meets Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff), an adopted child who John Pressman (Paul Rudd), a teacher at Jeremiah’s school, claims is her son, she becomes heavily invested in his success. Thus, in a unusual though exciting turn of events, Portia is both helping someone apply to Princeton while at the same time helping to decide his fate.

THE BAD: A problem with this film, which I’ve seen many time before in this marathon, is that of it’s secondary characters. Portia, John, Jeremiah, and a handful of other characters, even some minor ones, were all fantastic. They filled their roles and beyond, evoking the emotions and feelings that we should feel in key moments rather than just watching events unfold at a distance. However, a few characters like Portia’s mother Susannah (Lily Tomlin), fellow admissions officer Corinne (Gloria Reuben), and her long-term boyfriend Mark (Michael Sheen) all felt incomplete. They each had a standout moment or two that made their character click, but for the most part, they felt completely unnecessary to the film. Admission could have done without them and it would still have had the same effect. Not something you look forward to in a film.

THE TAKEAWAY: What I perhaps found most surprising was the film’s ending. While there are some happy moments to be had, it isn’t necessarily a happy ending you come to expect in in a romantic comedy-drama like Admission. And it’s great to see a film that shows even happy endings can have some sadness in them and things don’t always go exactly right all the time. Some of the characters and the execution could have been better, but the film still did a good job at telling to story of college admissions from both perspectives, another thing that isn’t seen done well too often.

THE RATING: 4 out of 5