Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

March 19, 2013

CALLERI: Lily Tomlin shows Tina Fey how it's done in 'Admission'

Niagara Gazette — There’s a trap for comedy performers who want to transition to being a little less funny, perhaps even doing something more dramatic. The audience waits in anticipation of that first big laugh. It expects their clowns to be what they’ve always been, funny.

Tina Fey, a satirist and comedienne of the highest order, faces this problem head-on in “Admission,” a film that, like its star, wants to be taken seriously. Yes, there are laughs in the movie, most of them courtesy of a scenery-chewing performance by Lily Tomlin, but by-and-large this is a thought-provoker with some important things it wants to say about feminism, college admission hurdles, adoption, and women in the workplace. The film is directed by Paul Weitz (“About A Boy,” “Being Flynn”) and written by Karen Croner from Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel.

“Admission” follows Fey, who plays Portia Nathan, a long-standing college admissions officer at Princeton. She is one of a university team that will decide which high school students, out of 20,000 applicants, will be selected for the coveted chance to be part of Princeton’s class of 2016. At most, only 1,500 will be admitted. This specific vetting process is important because whichever admissions officer brings something special to the table, as in a promising student of astonishing potential, will probably be the person chosen to replace the retiring Dean of Admissions (nicely played by Wallace Shawn). Portia’s most serious competition is from an equally-determined fellow officer named Corinne (acted by a marginally interesting Gloria Reuben). The extremely organized and hugely professional Portia, who is in a long-term relationship with the chairman of the English Department (an underused Michael Sheen), decides to take Princeton’s attributes on the road, eventually arriving at an alternative high school in the countryside. It’s called New Quest and the students learn about iron work and birthing animals.

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