Admissions and ‘Admission’

It seems wholly appropriate that most colleges send out their judgment notices around Holy Week when borderline applicants might resort to prayer, or give new meaning to the notion of being “passed over.”

Of course, Hollywood would love to take advantage of such a momentous time; hence, we have “Admission.”

The movie is a “dramedy,” which is akin to the one-humped camel. That would be called a dromedary, but you’re still left wondering the same thing. Where’s the other hump?

The movie is just missing that special something. A bit more satire or a bit more drama might help. This one wants to do it all but never does enough. You walk away from the movie thinking like an admissions officer: “It had so much potential.” Instead, the movie is satisfied with being a pleasant enough vehicle to watch Tina Fey and Paul Rudd blown up to 35 feet.

That’s not to say the film is totally lacking in entertainment or pleasure. Indeed, Higher Ed types will love the portrayal of the cut-throat world of admissions, and the glimpses of faculty life.

The movie’s best moments are in these send-ups of familiar college stereotypes—deans, professors, and students. That’s especially true in the admissions process, starting with campus tours with the overaggressive Asian American parent and her embarrassed Asian American son. There’s a black female gymnast with the perfect scores. An Inuit Eskimo from Nome who works for a shelter for homeless sled dogs. (It seems we are missing a Hispanic or LGBT stereotype). But we do have others in the gallery: a white female student who wants to go to law school someday in order to prosecute her mother’s killer (Admit!) A white legacy who captains the sailing team but does lousy on his SATs (Admit!) An “auto-didact” who scores all 5’s in all his AP exams without taking a single AP class! (No spoilers in this review).

It brings us to the most amusing part of the film where admissions officers advocate for their “pets” (mostly white), who either gain admission or they’re rejected, denied and flushed down a trap door.

In the end, once you deal with thousands of applicants where everyone has something impressive on their resume, the process is exposed as fairly arbitrary, sadistic and ego-driven—on the part of the university.

The film needed to mine much more of that, and not the contrived Tina Fey drama.

There are a few satirical jabs here and there, like when an alternative high school student accuses the college as being a corporate institution, no better than the oil companies.

But in the end, this isn’t a documentary. It’s a dramedy. And everyone conforms—especially if they want to get into a Princeton.

And that too is a big criticism. The movie is so elitist, it’s like a big inside joke. If references to the Hotchkiss Triangle or Deerfield Academy make you giddy, then boo-ya for you. Otherwise, it’s a movie that celebrates education privilege with just a passing nod to diversity.

Were it not for the Paul Rudd character and his adopted African son, the movie would be totally obnoxious.