Saturday, July 13, 2013

How Admission Breaks Many Molds

Admission isn't your typical book/movie.  It's not just a maudlin love story.  It's so much more.  Tina Fey's character Portia, now in her 40s, is just getting her coming-of-age story where she finally learns to live and to stand up for what's right.  It's about her ability to love and accept love, to connect with her estranged hardcore feminist mother, to balance work and her increasingly unstable personal life, and most of all it's about establishing and maintaining roots.  It's a complex story that aptly divvies out proportions of multiple people's lives in a mere two hours.  We feel like we know the entire characters' histories in this film (I can count five characters that adhere to this, despite Portia being the main character).  The movie's writing by Karen Croner is beautifully stellar, carefully crafted, and knowingly faithful, in essence, to its source by Jean Hanff Korelitz.



The film's (and even more the book's) story structure is highly irregular and unpredictable, from character decisions to disheartening events.  It's heartbreaking and uplifting, simultaneously.  Rarely does a film surprise me, but this did, from the final scenes to the revelations of characters' pasts.  It's not a straight-forward anything.  It's character-driven and emotional.  It's angering, surprising, witty, hilarious, awkward, disappointing, depressing, and shameful.  It's everything in a movie, except maybe action, though there are a few good battles of wit and word.

John Pressman, played by Paul Rudd in the film, seems to have it all together as the perfect man--sweet, witty, benevolent, good-humored, intelligent, and charitable.  However, as the film progresses, we see his perfection unravel into a mess of a person--selfish, rash, unaware, and insensitive.  Upon realizing this due to many mishaps, he begins to fix himself, along with Portia, who unravels for different reasons.

Portia had been uptight, bossy, and dedicated to her job of judging people, but she had shown a bit of a maternal streak in mentoring the newbie, half-cold-hearted though it was.  She had grown accustomed to coldness, being in a cold relationship with her decade-long relationship and a cold relationship with her mother, whom she hated.  But when she meets the boy who might be her son, her world unravels.  She engages with children, even learns to love them, when she previously hadn't.  Now that she was exposed to her could-be son, she wants children.  She becomes more impassioned and compassionate.  She does, however, display a certain amount of vindictiveness in persuading her coworkers when the time comes.  But this vindictiveness comes from a place of desperation, of knowing what's right.  When it comes time for passing judgment, she does so with less frigidness and more affection and understanding.  She owns up to her name's meaning of wisdom.

One of the most intriguing relationships is that of Portia and her co-worker Corinne, played by Gloria Rueben.  They engage in the token female in the workplace competition, but later Portia--partly tired of the competition, and mostly due to her wanting to get her way and playing subtle political bargaining--purposely cries to persuade Corinne that she wants to make amends and that women should support each other in the workplace.  Corinne wants to support Portia, but ultimately succumbs to the pressure of the status quo, much to Portia's disappointment.

Make no mistake, this is not a drama; Admission is not a romantic comedy; this is nothing that you've seen.  It's beautifully dark, hauntingly engaging, and surprisingly hilarious all at once.  People expect one or the other, and it's not, which is why it's so low-rated (5.5...really?) on imdb, judging by the reviews.  You can buy, rent, or download Admission right now.  And buy the book, too, while you're at it!  GET IT ALREADY!

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