My usual reason for walking out on a film is that it’s suffocating me or making me sick or poisoning my soul. I walk out in order to live again. But my reason for bailing on Paul Weitz‘s Admission (Universal, opening today) was a bit different. It’s not a terrible film — it’s a tightly structured, intelligently written comedy about bright adults involved in parenting and academia — but like so many big-studios comedies it’s broad and arch and on-the-nose and exaggerated in ways that become intolerable after a while.
“People definitely think like this,” I was saying to myself. “But they don’t talk like this with each other…and it’s driving me up the wall to sit through this clever, cloying, punch-line dialogue. Will you stop talking like this, Tina Fey and Paul Rudd and Michael Sheen and yaddah-yaddah? Will you please fucking stop?”
And yet the bullshit contrivances are handled in such a way that I was able to stand Admission for a while. For the first 30 or 40 minutes, I mean. Even with occasionally awful scenes like one in which the husband of Fey’s Princeton admissions executive, played by Sheen, confesses that he’s in love with another woman and that the woman is pregnant and that he’s leaving Fey…during a party they’re giving. And then he leaves with the woman while the guests are eating bruschetta in the next room. C’mon! The most thoughtless asshole in the world wouldn’t break the news to his/her partner that way…except in comedies like this one.
Some comedies are so bad that it’s an effort to watch them for more than ten minutes. Admission is not one of these. I wasn’t delighted but I was dealing with it…at first. But comedy is awfully difficult to get right. There’s a certain pitch or tone that “works” (like in David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook because it feels and sounds natural and believable) and there are others that just don’t. Admission is one of these. I didn’t want to shoot or strangle it or chop it into pieces with a meat cleaver. I just wanted to slip out the door without making any fuss.
Fey and Rudd are…I was going to call them appealing and tolerable for the most part, but they’ve been told to act in a “funny” way and to perform in farcical situations (like sharing tasks during the birthing of a calf) and after a while you have this sensation of the film just sitting there and feeling tiresome. Plus there’s something brittle and ungiving about Fey. She’s limited to a certain territory and I was just wanted to break out and roam free as it were.
Lily Tomlin easily gives the most engaging performance as Fey’s somewhat callous, know-it-all ’60s-generation mom. She’s almost in her own movie.
Is Admission worse than Olympus Has Fallen? No — it’s a much smarter and more self-aware film with at least some bits that work from time to time whereas Olympus is a sick, ludicrous farce. And yet Olympus has a 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating compared to Admission‘s 46%. Metacritic has given Admission a 49 rating vs. a 42 rating for Olympus Has Fallen.