Wednesday 22 November 2017

Fey plays it safe in Hollywood

Tina Fey
Tina Fey

Paul Whitington

Film Review: Admission (12A, general release, 107 minutes) 2 STARS

Director: Paul Weitz Stars: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, Michael Sheen

For all the brilliance of her TV career, Tina Fey has never looked quite at ease on the big screen.

She was okay opposite Steve Carell in Date Night, not bad as a career woman who's too busy to bear her own kid in Baby Mama, but okay and not bad feels like underachievement for the creator and star of 30 Rock.

Maybe it's just that practically no one's any good at writing comic movies any more, or perhaps Fey gets all jittery when Hollywood comes a calling, and opts for safe, risk-free vehicles like this one.

Admission is set on the campus of Princeton University, and Fey plays Portia Nathan, a starchy and formidable admissions officer. Getting into an Ivy League college is a big deal, the competition is frenzied and Portia seems to take a certain grim pleasure in turning down the patently unsuitable.

But her frosty reserve is shaken to its core when she gets a call from a school principal called John Pressman (Paul Rudd).

He tells her that one of his most gifted students, Jeremiah Balakian(Nat Wolff), is the long lost son she never knew and gave up for adoption as a teenager.

Now he wants to get into Princeton, and the question is – how far will Portia go to get him in?

Admission is not awful exactly, in fact at times it's vaguely funny.

But given the presence of Fey, Rudd and the likes of Lily Tomlin and Michael Sheen, you could reasonably expect it to be a whole lot better.

The screenplay's essential timidity is the real problem: it raises an interesting subject (the iniquitous elitism of joints like Princeton), and then signally fails to address it.

Given precious little to work with, Fey and the estimable Rudd find it hard to keep things going, but do, and Tomlin is great fun as Portia's hippie mother.

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