Starring Paul Rudd, Tina Fey, and Lily Tomlin, and Bat Wolff
Directed by Paul Weitz (About a Boy)
Rated PG-13 for language and some sexual material
Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan (Fey) is up for a major promotion when her life is turned upside down upon discovering that one of the applicants could possibly be her son that she gave up for adoption. While working closely with one of his teachers (Paul Rudd), her simple life becomes more and more complex as she tries to deal with the many conflicts of interest being thrust upon her.
From the trailers and commercials I was convinced that this was going to be nothing more than a romantic comedy for Fey and Rudd. And I was completely fine with that. But then it hit me at the beginning of the second act that this was was no romantic comedy, but rather a more substantive and thought-provoking picture. Any silliness or potential big laughs are shown in the trailer and while usually I hate that, I have to admit that in this particular case, that is not a bad thing. I honestly believe that the studio was clueless how to market the project and they chose this path because they thought it was a good match that people would like to see. Now I’m not saying that there isn’t romance. In fact, there is a very sweet romantic story in place here. But that is not the primary thrust of the movie.
Over the last decade I’ve learned to trust Fey and Rudd in their choice of projects and have rarely been sorry for it. They are both extremely smart actors and comedians and capable of pulling off performances that actually make them believable as real people with real problems. Here there is an authenticity that shines through, with a bit of humor sprinkled in throughout. And to help the movie achieve an even greater level of relevance is Lily Tomlin as Fey’s mother who gives her best performance since 1975’s Nashville. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if her name comes up frequently during awards season.
Another party I trust here is director Paul Weitz. While the American Pie director has brought us some stinkers like Cirque du Freak and Little Fockers, he has also given us some gems like About a Boy and In Good Company. Here he and writer Karen Croner bring us deep into the inner workings of Ivy League school admission while still representing the difficulty that goes into making decisions and the integrity needed to make them. I would even say that the way the story is presented, this might be an important film to watch for any high schooler with dreams of getting into a great school.
So while the studio might be attempting to mislead the general public as to what their film is actually about, the ending result is much better than I thought it was capable of being. A-