Film review: Admissions

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TINA Fey’s recently concluded comedy show 30 Rock was a series so dangerously great that none of the terrestrial channels dared show it in case we started demanding our own great comedies written from a smart female perspective.

Admissions (12A)

Director: Paul Weitz

Running time: 107 minutes

***

The irony is that in a year’s time, the watery romcom Admissions will undoubtedly turn up on a TV near you, probably on Channel 5, and then get repeated every time the football is on.

Directed by Paul Weitz and starring – but not written by – Fey, it casts Fey as Portia, a 37-year-old admissions officer at Princeton who has given up everything for the job, to the point that her relationship with a whiskery professor (Michael Sheen) seems a useful side benefit, like having a works canteen. What’s missing from her life? Well, pretty soon it’s her professor, who runs off with a scholar he’s impregnated. The bigger point is that as a successful career woman, Portia doesn’t have it all because she doesn’t have a child.

Or does she? On her annual recruiting trip, she encounters John Pressman (Paul Rudd) a teacher and former classmate, who pushes her towards one of his students (Nat Wolff) who he thinks may be gifted enough for Princeton. However, he also has a second motive: the boy may also be a grown-up edition of the child Fey gave up for adoption almost two decades ago.

Admissions has its heart in the right place, with a message about parents allowing children to pursue their own lives, rather than attempting to foist unfulfilled ambitions upon them. But it’s also yet another movie where a life is portrayed as unfulfilled unless the heroine has been down the Pampers aisle.

Eighty years ago, romantic comedies used to view gender wars as a battle between equals, where women talked as fast, and acted as smartly and independently as their male counterparts. Isn’t it odd that, while we’re now supposed to have equal rights and equal pay, we can’t find even-handedness in the workplace. Fey gets better, edgier lines when she writes them for herself in 30 Rock or Mean Girls. In Date Night, Baby Mama and now Admissions the laughs are softer, and rather too often about empty wombs.

There are other casualties; Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway and Amy Adams have all been through movies that suggest their characters have lost out because their Fallopian tubes have failed to deliver. Only when they consider marriage and motherhood are these characters anywhere close to achieving a happy ending.

That’s not to say that there aren’t women who would love relationships and children, but when did romantic comedies get together and agree this was our only shot at a cheerful ­existence? «

Siobhan Synnot

On general release from Friday

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