A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Admission, though overall a humorous peek behind the curtain of college admissions, does tread in somewhat serious waters, dealing with a woman's (Tina Fey) past catching up with her (in the form of a son she gave up for adoption) even as she's abandoned by a longtime lover. It's all played for laughs, of course -- as is the seriously stressful business of trying to get into college -- but tweens and teens who aren't involved in the admissions cycle might not appreciate the jokes quite as much. Expect some swearing (mostly "s--t" and "damn"), frank references to sex and drinking (primarily in college, where a teenager is shown attending a party with students who are partaking, though he doesn't drink himself), and sometimes-scathing discussions about high school seniors and their college applications.
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What's the story?
Based on Jean Hanff Korelitz's same-named novel, ADMISSION stars Tina Fey as Portia Nathan, a disciplined, committed admissions officer at Princeton University. Hers is a job that many covet but may not be able to handle. Wading through mountains of college applications from tens of thousands of eager high school students is a daunting task, as is weeding through them to find the perfect freshman class. But Portia is happy. Or so she thinks, until her longtime boyfriend, a Princeton professor (Michael Sheen), informs her that he's leaving her, sending Portia into a depression spiral. But it's application season, and she has to keep it together, especially when the dean of admissions (Wallace Shawn) announces that he's retiring and that Portia and another ambitious co-worker are in the running for his job. Plus, her feminist mother (Lily Tomlin) may need her, and vice versa, more than Portia first thought. And she's got do-gooding teachers like John Pressman (Paul Rudd) begging her to visit their campus and meet exceptionally gifted students like Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), with whom Portia may actually have a lot in common.
Is it any good?
Like some of the high school seniors it depicts frantically attempting to impress during the interminable, stressful college application period, Admission tries a little too hard. Scenes are loaded with please-laugh, please-like moments: An uptight woman's mother is a sexual free spirit, leering at others openly while her daughter cringes; a guy helps a cow give birth (and he has no idea how); high school students openly deride a college admissions officer's presentation (and she responds with witty comebacks). It's all a little too much, frankly, leaving with you with the sense -- perhaps the same sense that an admissions officer gets when reading an overbaked application -- that all isn't as great as it tries to appear.
Fey and Rudd aren't the problem: They're funny, they have great comic timing, and they share an easy rapport. Perhaps it's that the film has too much good material to mine: The college application process alone has plenty of potential, and although Admission tries to capitalize on it, it does so with jokes we've heard before. It would have done better to take advantage of its behind-the-curtains point of view (as it is, except for a satisfying scene in which the admissions officers duke it out over applicants, debating the merits of each one, we don't see much that's new or surprising). While not everything on the big screen needs to be refreshing, the fact that the leads are charming and funny isn't enough to make Admission stand out above the crowd.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Admission is saying about the college application process. Is it random? Deliberate? Should the results be taken personally? How realistic do you think the version on display here really is?
How does the movie portray college life? Are there any scenes that show the real-life consequences of partying?
Parents, talk to your kids about the lead-up to the college application process. Is it stressful? Should it be? What's the best way to prepare for it?
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