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Lifestyle

March 24, 2013

'A' is for average in 'Admissions'

Tina Fey makes funny TV shows, funny movies and funny books.

Director Paul Weitz often goes for something beyond funny — emotional stories of parents and children trying to puzzle out something beyond flesh and blood that bonds them.

She did “30 Rock” and “Date Night.” He did “About a Boy” and “Being Flynn.”

And somewhere on the uncertain ground between the two is “Admission.” It’s a romantic comedy — of sorts — about a lovelorn Princeton admissions officer forced to reconcile her judgmental job with the news that the baby she gave up for adoption 17 years ago might be applying to … Princeton.

It’s not a particularly satisfying comedy, but thanks to the cast and some of the odd directions it takes, “Admission” is an intensely likable one.

Portia (Fey) spends her days competing with Corinne (Gloria Reuben) to see who can be the snobbiest in front of the head of admissions (Wallace Shawn), hoping against hope to get the top job when he retires.

She comes home to her English lit professor live-in beau (Michael Sheen), who reads Chaucer aloud and declares “I like this life. I do I do!” No children, an academic setting, a life of letters and purpose — what’s not to like about it?

But calls are coming in. Quest, this new alternative school where kids learn to split wood, milk cows, build robots and think for themselves, has a star student. And his teacher, John (Paul Rudd), is determined to get Portia’s attention. The student, Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), could be “Princeton material.”

There’s something else John wants to get across, in between awkward moments of violating Princeton policy and instances where Portia is sure he’s making a pass.

“Jeremiah — I think he’s your son.”

Much of the film is about miscommunication, things that stop just short of being said — Portia accepting this shocking news, or denying it; John and Portia trying to not tell the kid. She keeps seeing little things the teen does that are like her, and starts looking for shortcuts so that he can get into college.

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