Monday, September 2, 2013

Short Cut Movie Review: Admission

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

Paul Weitz was very wise not to allow himself to get pigeonholed into making more movies like his debut feature, American Pie, which he co-directed with his brother. Audiences were lucky that American Pie wound up in the hands of directors who were sensitive to character issues. That film was notable for being outrageously hilarious while not losing sight of the fact that the audience still needs to connect with the characters on the screen. Weitz has continued to bring that human touch to all of the films he directs, especially as he has moved away from outright comedy to stretch himself with dramatic films.

Admission is his latest, released earlier this year and now available on home video. Like About a Boy (probably the best film he’s made), it is a drama, but with plenty of comedy born of the absurdities of everyday life. It is funny because its stars, Paul Rudd and Tina Fey, can’t be anything but hilarious in their delivery. Fey is a Princeton admissions officer and Rudd is the founder and director of an alternative school. He’s identified one of his graduating seniors as an exceptionally bright student who has nevertheless failed to excel academically. He thinks the kid deserves a chance to attend Princeton. Oh, and he believes Fey is the boy’s biological mother who gave him up for adoption back in college.

Karen Croner’s screenplay, based on the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, is part family comedy and part romantic comedy. But this isn’t your average rom-com with pratfalls and cheap plot points recycled over and over for the last 75 years. It mostly feels natural and honest. The film is greatly aided by some fantastic supporting cast members including Lily Tomlin as Fey’s hippie feminist mother; Michael Sheen as her feckless boyfriend; and Wallace Shawn as the Dean of Admissions.

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