Tina Fey plays Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at Princeton University who whilst doing the recruitment rounds at various schools in her area, comes across the charming and well-travelled John Pressman (Paul Rudd), a former college classmate who has his own independent school. While visiting the school she meets a challenging student called Jeremiah who Pressman believes to be Portia’s son whom she gave up for adoption while at college. Jeremiah is a failing student who is simultaneously a genius, a prodigy and stands no chance at getting into a prestigious school like Princeton, despite his academic skills, on paper he is a failure. While up for promotion, Portia takes a chance on Jeremiah and subtly (or not so subtly in some cases) encourages his application to the school. Compromised by her belief that Jeremiah is her son, she acts unprofessionally and her motherly instincts cause her to step out of character as the admissions officer to a Mother trying to get her son into a university.
The weight of this films success lies on the shoulders of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, without them, their poorly written characters would be face down in the mud and trampled on by an underused Michael Sheen. Tina Fey is your typical head strong, career driven woman, anti-family because of her own selfish reasons and in a relationship with an academic, bumbling Brit (Sheen) who treats her more like a dog than a partner. The laziness of the script writing leads Rudd to be her antithesis, obviously. Yawn. Portia Nathan is Liz Lemon and the rather obvious nod to 30 Rock is partly due to this and partly due to her failing relationship with Mark (Sheen) whom Lemon had an almost-relationship with in the early seasons of 30 Rock. Fan girls everywhere will be wetting themselves with joy to see that fictional relationship played out via alternative vessels.
Regardless of the shallow and badly thought-out character profiles, the film was actually pretty good. I didn’t once laugh aloud, despite various infantile attempts, but I wholly enjoyed it. The acting was good, the story was predictable and a little nonsense in places but it was something a bit different. I haven’t seen a film about the inner workings of an admissions office at a prestigious university before so in that respect it was a breath of fresh air. It would have been a lot better with a different hook in the storyline in all honesty I could have done without the adoption part, it felt like a last ditched attempt to rip at the heart strings during the final scenes. I enjoyed the journey Portia went on and or the most part I was fairly invested in her story, maybe its because I like Tina Fey so much or maybe it was because I have a genuine interest in the cogs that keep the countries greatest universities turning. Either way, a little help from Lily Tomlin (Eastbound & Down) and Wallace Shawn (Toy Story) didn’t go amiss and provided some welcome friendly faces (or voices) to liven up an otherwise dead and unimaginative script.
Genuinely enjoyable, slightly above average comedy-drama that could have done with a bit more attention to detail and imagination which suffers its greatest shortfall at the hands of the writers.