Friday, March 22, 2013
"Admission" review: A "romantic comedy" from hell
There's no excuse for "Admission" to be this terrible. I love Tina Fey and I love Paul Rudd, but their characters are so poorly written here and this movie is so badly made, I can't understand what compelled them to do this. Their characters make decisions that are insensitive, rude, hateful, unforgivable. This movie has the "feel" of a romantic comedy yet is neither romantic or remotely funny. Paul Rudd and Tina Fey's characters eventually have sex and get in a relationship with each other literally because they are the main female and male leads in the movie. There's no other reason. No chemistry is established between them. I came into "Admission" expecting a pleasant enough movie with likable actors, what I got was something way, way different. And way worse.
If you don't want some of the movie spoiled for you, don't read any further. That is, if you care to see this piece of shit. Otherwise, read on. But I warn you, there are some spoilers in this review.
Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan. She's an admissions officer at Princeton University. This is how her character is established: she's great at her job, one of the best. She might be in the running to become Dean of Admissions. She's done the job for 16 years now. So, clearly, she belongs there. Her private life isn't as great though, as her longtime boyfriend (Michael Sheen) is leaving her and she's really got nothing else going for her in that department. Her mother doesn't even care for her that much, for some reason.
Then there's Paul Rudd's character, John Pressman. John is an "amazing" guy. He heads an alternative school where kids learn how to save the environment... or something. He's adopted a child from Uganda who he raises well. He travels all over the world. He, like Portia Nathan, went to Dartmouth. John has a student at his high school who he thinks is very gifted. He also thinks the kid, Jeremiah, might be Portia's biological son. Wait what?
Yes, "Admission" introduces this heavy plot detail so early that it completely sends everything else off balance. John wants very badly for Jeremiah to get into Princeton. Why though? Because he really thinks Jeremiah is gifted or because he wants him to be reunited with Portia? You might think it's the former or you might think John is a manipulative prick. After all, at one point in the movie, Jeremiah is about to go through with an alumni interview. What does John do? He calls the alumnus a prick, completely disrespects him. So, really, how interested is John in getting Jeremiah into Princeton? Not very, apparently. Portia seems to want Jeremiah to get into Princeton too, naturally. She becomes interested in Jeremiah, thinking he's her son. And she wants to do her best to make sure he can get into Princeton, a school that is very tough to get into. Extremely tough. But after being appalled that John would bring up this very difficult moment in her life (giving up a baby for adoption), she quickly does an about-face, goes back to New Hampshire (the location of John's high school), and takes an interest in her supposed biological son. It's not that I don't believe she would never want to be reunited with her son, but that quickly? After just finding out about it? Come on.
John is a manipulative asshole though. Why does he care that this kid goes to Princeton? Jeremiah wasn't all that interested in the idea until after he visited the college. The entire thing is John's doing. He cold calls Portia, forces her to visit the alternative high school, drops this bomb on her... how the hell did he think she'd react? Naturally, she would be freaked out by the whole ordeal because who in their right mind would approach a touchy subject to someone in such an offhand manner?
The movie's tone is that of a romantic comedy and, for that reason, every plot detail that comes off feels completely contrived. Because we're dealing with the subject matter of Portia and her biological son, the actual "romance" between John and Portia feels so ridiculously fake, I don't even know where to begin. Aside from the biological son plot, there's zero reason why the two would be interested in each other. If there was any interest, we get zero reasons. Why do they like each other? Do they ever establish that? And there are so many other annoying tidbits to go with this, like John's adopted son. He, for some reason, thinks Portia is really cool. Why? Because she lives a boring life. He's met her like two or three times and he wants her to be his mom. He even says "why can't you be my mother?" which has to be among the most cringeworthy dialogue I've ever heard. He does add a "just kidding" afterwards, but the damage is done.
If that's not bad enough, the movie takes a complete turn for the worst in the third act. I did a write-up, basically spoiling what happens, but I don't want to be too unprofessional about this. Let's just say the movie goes from merely being bad, to being completely fucking terrible. The characters make decisions that are completely out of line with what's been established. It makes zero sense. What I will tell you is that John and Portia wind up together in the end and it feels completely illegitimate. Everything about this movie is complete bullshit. You can't even call it just a "run of the mill romantic comedy." What's romantic about this movie? And, really, where's the comedy aside from the contrived slapstick circumstances? Anytime I laughed during this movie, it was for the most throwaway, forgettable moments. If anything, I laughed just to try to psyche myself out of hating this movie so much. It didn't work. This movie just doesn't work on any level. Any level. No chemistry between Rudd and Fey, a terrible plot, everything about this movie is a failure. Only Lily Tomlin was somewhat amusing.
They either needed a more competent director for this material or they should've never bothered. Putting this subject matter into an "average rom-com' tone was such a bad move. It would've played out much better as a drama instead of having completely unnecessary scenes like watching Paul Rudd and Tina Fey help a cow give birth. Ugh. Fuck this movie.
There's bad movies out there, movies that are bad but it does what it's supposed to do. Like Transformers. You go into Transformers and you get exactly what the movie sets out to do. It's not a movie for me and that's ok. It's a movie for some. Nothing wrong with that. But "Admission" fails on every level as a romantic comedy, as a drama, as anything it was trying to be. It's insultingly bad. Stay away from this movie. Far, far away.