What I Learned at “Admission”

Admission_movie_posterDo you remember your college interviews? Do you remember visiting campuses with your parents during weekends and breaks? Do you look back on that angst-ridden period and recognize how pointless the exhaustive enterprise turned out to be? Regardless of your answers, Paul Weitz’s Admission depicts that reality as the backdrop for what looks to be one of the more underrated movies of the year.

Adapted from the novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, Admission tells the story of a Princeton admissions officer (Tina Fey) whose ordinary life gets interesting when she meets a globetrotting do-gooder (Paul Rudd) during a school visit. Following the formula of romantic narrative, opposites attract through a series of twists and turns. And of course, Fey and Rudd effortlessly give grounded performances that are both heartfelt and amusing. Reviews have not been positive from people expecting more of an Apatowian romp. But such reactions to the movie undermine how deeply compelling even the simplest human interactions can be.

So yes, I recommend seeing this movie. But in case you’re still not sold, here are some non-spoiler revelations from the experience of seeing it in the theater.

admission-image05Paul Rudd sure is a handsome dude

It has been a challenge to understand what women see in Rudd because he hasn’t been especially masculine since Wet Hot American Summer. But to Rudd’s major credit, his portrayal of a rustic Jack-of-all-trades transcends archetypal masculinity and reflects a more modern image of the kind of guy for whom if your girlfriend left you, you’d say, “Respect.” Combine this new alpha male with Rudd’s trademark wit and those striking hazel eyes and you’ve got a can’t-miss character who should not only get the girl, but he should get them all.

bridget-jonesBridget Jones must die

Who can forget how Renee Zellweger gave millions of women hope as Bridget Jones, the hapless protagonist of 2 films that promised women that they can have their choice of men, despite bumbling mediocrity and body image issues?

Romantic comedies have used this character type time after time, but Admission breaks formation admirably. Tina Fey’s character, Portia Nathan, begins as a more-than-competent admissions officer whose life unravels before everyone’s eyes after a series of unexpected life changes. But the downward spiral (and all the awkwardness that come with it) leads to a long overdue turning point, which endows Portia with the resolve to take life head-on (with a great fella beside her, of course). Regardless of whether you agree that Portia is worth doting on, her undeniable passion and intelligence goes far beyond anything Bridget Jones had to offer.

As unfair as it is to pit 2 fictitious females against one another, it’s important to recognize the differences when identifying which character types perpetuate undeniably positive images of women, as opposed to those that absolve women from loving themselves before longing for someone to steal their hearts.

Confession: 2 female friends dragged me to Bridget Jones’s Diary in college. I will neither confirm nor deny whether the experience resulted in my current bias.

20130320-lily-x600-1363793474Feminism gets better with age

Lily Tomlin’s resurgence in the final season of Eastbound and Down pleasantly surprised everyone who remembers her as (in contemporary terms) a prototype for comediennes like Kristen Wiig. Tomlin carried her strength as Tammy Powers into Admission as the no-nonsense feminist mother of Tina Fey’s character. Never considered a looker by popular standards, the septuagenarian Tomlin managed to exercise her sensuality to disarming effect. The mix of vulnerability and strength that Tomlin radiated throughout the film suggests that old school feminists might be the best kind, having had enough time to figure out how to reconcile self-sufficiency with the appetite for occasional male companionship, all without the residual solitude-borne bitterness. And Tomlin pulled this off as a lesbian (in real life). What’s your excuse, ladies?

Place-Beyond-the-Pines-013013spThe perfect date movie has arrived

Sometimes, Hollywood devises a project that no one can deny as an instant win. Picture this pitch:

“What if we cast Ryan Gosling as a tattooed dirt biker who opts to provide for his child by criminal means, and Bradley Cooper as the straight-laced cop who tries to overcome corruption within his own force to bring the dirt biker to justice? And oh yeah, let’s throw Eva Mendes in there; she’s hot.”

Well, yeah, that movie is happening. And guys, it will get you laid. Take your girlfriend to this movie, immerse yourself in the story and the Eva Mendes sightings, ignore 2 hours and 20 minutes of swooning next to you, and reap the spoils of how a lady feels after a visual ménage with 2 of Hollywood’s hottest leading men.

By the way, the movie is called The Place Beyond the Pines. You’re welcome.

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