Texas Art & Film's Dr. Donna Copeland's Film Reviews & Features
 
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The title of this film is something of a double entendre in that the main character Portia (Tina Fey) works as an admissions officer at Princeton, and the story contains several personal admissions characters make over the course of time.  Portia has worked at Princeton for 16 years, and is vying with another woman, Corinne (Gloria Reuben), to be appointed head after the current chief retires.  Both are hard working, competent women who desperately want the job.
Complications for Portia enter in after John (Paul Rudd) interjects himself into her life, in the interest of seeing that one of his students is accepted.  She is very proper, and tries to maintain objectivity and appropriate boundaries, but he has a special hook that draws her in.  Actually, he has several hooks, and before long, she is emotionally compromised.  As the story plays out, it becomes more and more outrageous, and that is the main problem I had with the movie.  It is too farcical, which detracts from some of the realistic situations and depth of emotions experienced by the characters, devolving into an extended situation comedy.
            Part of the farce involves rather stereotypical portraits of women.  Yes, after a typically rendered cat fight between Portia and Corinne, they do make up and begin to cooperate with one another, which goes against many stereotypes in films.  But Portia is drawn as highly emotional and unable to maintain her professional boundaries—not believable with the way she is portrayed in the beginning.  The story seems to imply that if such a woman is exposed to children and maternal instincts, she will melt every time, setting aside her decision not to have children and compromising her values and professional self.  Portia’s tough mother, played expertly by Lily Tomlin, is another stereotype who melts and suddenly becomes maternal as soon as a man comes into her life. 
            I enjoyed very much two of Director Paul Weitz’ previous films--Being Flynn and About a Boy—and this one is entertaining and even absorbing at times.  There are a number of heartfelt scenes, particularly those involving the two kids, teenager Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) and younger Nelson (Travaris Spears), and the chemistry and skills of Paul Rudd, Tina Fey, and Lily Tomlin are eye-catching.  If the comedic parts had been reined in a bit, I would say the film might have been first-rate.

Grade:  B

 



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