Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Admission" is a somewhat contrived comedy about Ivy League admissions, with a likable kid "hero"

The best experience in the romantic comedy “Admission” comes from the brilliant but eclectic high school student Jeremiah (Nat Wolff, who resembles Max Manghella), at an alternative school on a New Hampshire.  He talks logically and gives a great ventriloquist puppet show, backing up his application to Princeton.

The rest of the plot seems, while touching, a bit contrived.  Tina Fey (SNL) plays Portia, a university admissions placement officer, working for the Dean played by Wallace Shawn (“My Dinner with Andre”).  When she makes a recruiting trip to the new age farm run by John Pressman (Paul Rudd), she meets the mysterious but likeable and articulate farmboy, but is confronted by the possibility that he is the kid she gave up for adoption after “mistake” early in her life.

John is a single father figure, having adopted a smart boy from Uganda (no mention of Uganda’s anti-gay problem). He’s also planning to work on a water project in Ecuador (a distant relative in my own family, a recent engineering graduate, did the same in Guatemala, and Matt Damon has been active in supporting these efforts). 

So there are a lot of feel-good plot elements, not necessarily connected logically enough to be compelling – yet the writing follows the formulaic techniques for creating rooting interest and urgency. Will the boy get in to Princeton?  Will Portia and John keep their integrity in the process?  Will the University?

The movie was actually filmed in New York State, rather than around Princeton.  I like to see films made where they are supposed to happen.  I’ve known only one Princeton student, back in the 60s; he was in architecture.  However, I lived near Princeton when I worked for RCA in 1970-1071 and visited the campus frequently.  Remember Nassau Street and Buxton’s? 

I saw this film before a fair crowd on Saturday afternoon at a Regal in Arlington Va.
The official Facebook is here.  McAfee Advisor gave me red warnings consistently for the Focus Features site for the film; don’t know why, maybe a false alarm.  However, Firefox search shows green ratings from all rating companies including McAfee for the entire Focus site. 

Pictures are mine, from spring of 2010.  Quiz: which picture is not from Princeton?  Where is it?

Update: Check review of Arvin Vohra's book "Lies, Damned Lies and College Admissions", Book Review blog, April 19, 2013.  

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