At this time of year, high school seniors from coast to coast are wracked with stress about the college admission process. Is there any way to turn this ordeal into a romantic comedy? Tina Fey and company give it a try in “Admission.”
Fey plays Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at Princeton who gets way too emotionally involved with one of the applicants to the freshman class. Instead of remaining a name on an orange folder and a series of grades, tests scores and extracurricular accomplishments stapled to a personal essay, a 17-year-old boy named Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff) becomes all too real to Portia. She comes to believe she is actually his birth mother and soon is doing all sorts of questionable things to try to give him a leg up in his struggle to get into Princeton.
Based on the novel of the same name by Jean Korelitz, who worked in the Princeton admissions office, the movie milks a seriously touchy subject for some good laughs. But high school students facing the daunting college application process will wonder how closely this movie hews to any real college. Their parents may ask whether it will help or hinder their kids as they wait out the verdicts from the schools they’ve applied to.
There are no simple answers to these questions. The movie has its moments of truth as well as its flights of fancy. Whether a particular teenager will have a good, lighthearted time or find the film painfully stressful will depend mostly on the person. But, underneath its humorous exterior, “Admission” does offer some earnest commentary and a few real lessons to be learned. Here are a few admissions realities I think the movie got right.