The pairing of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd should be worth the price of admission alone for this purported romcom, but their chemistry amounts to a procession of awkward grins in the face of a script distinctly lacking in spark and wit. But beyond agreeing to take on the roles, they're largely blameless. For an ill-conceived dynamic between their central characters is the main reason for the movie floundering, despite several strong elements elsewhere like an effervescent supporting turn by Lily Tomlin as Fey's feminist mother.
Admission charts the fortunes of Princeton University admissions officer Portia (Fey) as she vies for promotion, struggles with the breakdown of her romance with a caricatured professor (Michael Sheen) and is then told that the baby she once gave up for adoption is extremely gifted and competing for a place at her prestigious establishment.
The bearer of that bombshell news is John Pressman (Rudd), who runs a newly founded rural college attended by Portia's alleged offspring Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) and harasses her into supporting the cause for his student. He also instantly takes a shine to her, which manifests itself in the form of unforgivably rapey advances like forcing himself on her in his car after she has clearly told him 'NO' and stalking her in her workplace.
The end result you crave is not the harmonious union dictated by the plot mechanics. Instead, you want Portia to take out a restraining order rather than succumb to his creepy campaign. Their interactions are unfathomably misjudged and also protracted, which contributes to the overlong running time.
It's a shame, because many moments of pure drama and emotion work well, unlike the comedy and romance in the movie. Portia's attempts to latch onto a family unit during a time of personal turbulence are superbly conveyed by Fey, who sympathetically brings out the oscillating feelings of hope and desperation felt by her character.
The two-hander scenes between Portia and her supposed son Jeremiah are particularly touching, while her interactions with Tomlin's wild-eyed mother introduce a vital dose of energy and rare laughs into proceedings. More focus on these intriguing and unstable relationships would have worked wonders.
With better treatment, the promising premise of Admission could have harnessed the touching dramatic and romantic elements attained by director Paul Weitz's adaptation of About A Boy. Yet the staggeringly unconvincing dynamic between the central characters not only leaves Fey and Rudd helpless, it ensures the whole movie is effectively rudderless.