In this week's release, Admission, Tina Fey plays Portia, an uptight admissions officer at Princeton who becomes emotionally attached to an applicant who may or may not be the biological son she gave up for adoption during her own college days. Paul Rudd co-stars as John, the head of an alternative school who introduces her to the young man he suspects is her son -- who just happens to be dying to get into Princeton.
Career-minded Portia becomes increasingly unhinged as the movie progresses, as she contemplates the possibility that Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) is her son and deals with the fact that her long-term boyfriend (Michael Sheen) has run off with an insufferable lit professor. She transforms from an uppity admissions officer who sees students as file numbers, not people, to an overly emotional wreck who sneaks into frat house parties to spy on young Jeremiah and make sure he has a toothbrush.
As adults in campus movies often do, Portia loses her inhibitions and begins acting more like a devil-may-care student than an uptight adult. She fights with her mother (played by the hilarious Lily Tomlin), and she makes some very questionable life-altering decisions. And since this is a Hollywood movie, romance blooms between her and John -- two opposites who (of course) have more in common than they originally realized. Like hormone-fuelled teenagers, the two middle-aged lovebirds can't keep their hands off each other.
Admission, admittedly, isn't the best campus movie ever made. But it's sufficiently entertaining, thanks in large part to the considerable charms of Fey, Rudd and Tomlin. It's not a cookie-cutter rom-com, but it's also not as fleshed-out and moving as you might expect from a project that boasts such great stars and a seasoned director like Paul Weitz (About a Boy).
The movie got me thinking about other flicks that showcase adult shenanigans on campus. The scene where Fey forays into a frat party was slightly reminiscent of when Uncle Buck tried to save his sassy young niece from a ragin' kegger and an asshole boyfriend. Of course, Fey is far less embarrassing than an angry Uncle Buck on a mission. Here's a list of my top five favorite films about adults livin' it up on campus.
1. Rushmore. Bill Murray versus a very young Jason Schwartzman is quite possibly my favorite movie match-up ever. It certainly doesn't hurt that it's set against the lush backdrop of Rushmore's pristine, privileged campus. Where else could two sworn enemies vie for the affections of an enchanting English teacher with grandiose gestures like building an aquarium on campus?
2. Old School. These adults on campus don't really have any business being there, aside from a happy real estate accident. After all, none of them are professors, faculty or even janitors. But it's pretty hilarious watching a group of middle-aged dudes throw epic keggers, mingle with young co-eds and even slap together a fraternity. Inappropriate? Definitely. But those young minds have to be corrupted by someone.
3. Good Will Hunting. OK, so Will (Matt Damon) is college-age. But we'll file him in the "adult" category for our purposes, since he has an adult job as a janitor at MIT. He still lives a college-y lifestyle, though, hanging out in "Hah-vahd bahs" with his loutish friends, dating college girl Skylar and burying his head in the sand about his future. He even winds up with a couple of mentors who help him live up to his genius potential! Good thing he picked MIT to launch his janitorial career.
4. Wonder Boys. Professor Tripp (Michael Douglas) is totally living the college lifestyle. He hangs out with students like James (Tobey Maguire) and he sneaks around with his secret girlfriend, whom he knocks up accidentally! He even has an attractive young roommate, played by Katie Holmes. (Allowing a pretty young student to rent a room in your house seems like a bad idea. Just sayin'.)
5. Dead Poets Society. A stuffy prep school + an unorthodox new teacher = a great premise for a campus movie! To the repressed young students, the new teach, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) is a breath of fresh air. He gets them to stand on desks, he wants them to call him weird things like Captain and he even has a secret literary club! Mr. Keating sure knows how to get the most out of campus life.
Admission opens on March 22.