dir Paul Weitz
scr Karen Croner
prd Kerry Kohansky, Andrew Miano, Paul Weitz
with Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff, Lily Tomlin, Gloria Reuben, Michael Sheen, Wallace Shawn, Travaris Spears, Michael Genadry, Olek Krupa, Sonya Walger, Sarita Choudhury
release US 22.Mar.13, UK 14.Jun.13
13/US Focus 1h47
Let the right one in: Fey, Wolff and Rudd

tomlin sheen shawn
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Admission An engaging cast holds our interest even when this rom-com meanders down unnecessary sideroads and dips into corny sentimentality. Although some might not think it's a comedy at all, as the humour is on the brainy side, knowingly poking fun at higher education and gender roles.

Portia (Fey) is an admissions officer at Princeton, the most in-demand university in America. Although it's just been knocked to second place, so her boss (Shawn) launches a competition between Portia and rival colleague Corinne (Reuben) for a big promotion. At the same time, Portia's long-term boyfriend (Sheen) announces he's leaving her. And a rural high school director John (Rudd) starts pushing unconventionally gifted student Jeremiah (Wolff) as a candidate for Princeton. Then John drops the bomb that Jeremiah is the son Portia gave up for adoption 18 years earlier.

Yes, it's a perfect storm for Portia, as she struggles to manage her emotions, ambition, desires and regrets, while falling for John and having a series of pointed encounters with her aggressive feminist mother (the magnificent Tomlin) that bring up past issues she's never dealt with. And as the script contrives to push Portia to the brink of her well-ordered life, we add another parenthood wrinkle: John has a super-smart 12-year-old adopted Ugandan son (Spears).

Everyone in this film is so likeable that we don't really mind what happens. Fey and Rudd give enjoyably understated performances that draw on deeper issues rather than superficial silliness, although they're good at that too. We never doubt where their story is going, or any of the other plot strands for that matter. And all of the actors get a chance to steal a scene or two, while Tomlin walks off with the whole movie.

Honestly, the film feels like it was written by her character: a strong woman with dark regrets who refuses to toe the male-dominated line. This gives it a sharply original slant that goes against the usual Hollywood drivel (and probably sank its box office chances), because the jagged, smart humour is based on characters who continually do the wrong things. And even when things get as sappy as we expect, and the well-worn message about self-discovery starts to annoy us, the actors deploy some honest wit just when it's needed.

cert 12 themes, language 10.Jun.13

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