By Casey Tourangeau

Mailed on March 24, 2013

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Dear Jay Scott
Nat Wolff's Stand-In

Dear Jay,

There's a lot of standing-in going on in Admission. I don't mean that in the usual way your job is defined - filling the actor's space on set while lighting, framing and technical issues are figured out. Rather, in the sense that the film's characters find stand-ins for what they think they want. Even though it's titled Admission, director Paul Weitz's comedy is about breaking out as much as it is gaining entry.

Everyone understands that your spot on set is only a temporary prelude to the arrival of the stars. Admission's characters, on the other hand, seem to think they are already in The Show, so to speak. Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) constantly, almost desperately, tells her (very) long-term boyfriend Mark (Michael Sheen) that their life is "perfect" - she a Princeton admissions officer of 16 years, he a literature professor. Of course, in any movie where a character expounds that everything is perfect, upheaval is straight ahead. For Portia, it's twofold: her personal life is thrown into flux when Mark leaves, while her professional identity comes into question when she meets Jeremiah (your camera-worthy counterpart, Nat Wolff), a promising-but-flawed candidate for admission who may also be the son she gave up for adoption. Both are brought to her attention by the head of Jeremiah's alternative school, John Pressman. The fact that he's played by a charming Paul Rudd should tip the audience off that Portia and John's futures are intertwined.

It's not just Portia who is in stasis. Of the main cast, Jeremiah is the only one who wants to move on. Everyone else needs to realize that they may not yet have the answers to their own happiness. This might sound a little pat, a little trite, and is sort of is. But that didn't bother me. Fey and Rudd are strong leads, and the supporting cast - including Sheen, Lily Tomlin, Wallace Shawn, Gloria Reuben - are the right choices to bring some depth to what could be a pretty fluffy piece. As a comedy, this isn't particularly laugh out loud; it's more ingratiating, gradually winning you over with character, similar to Weitz's earlier film About a Boy. Although there are issues maintaining tone (which sometimes teases the gross-out the territory of another early Wietz film, American Pie) and some late reveals are telegraphed enough to not be particularly revelatory, the sheer likeability of the performances carried me through.

Sure, the film is not particularly clever or original. Then again, neither is my pointing out the irony of you being the stand-in for a movie about people learning to actually stop standing still. But, to paraphrase Portia herself, if you can overlook some obvious surface flaws, you'll find something worth investing in.

Moving on,


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