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The Boston Globe

Movies

MOVIE REVIEW

‘Admission’ is a pleasant comedy

Liz Lemon goes to college? Not really. “Admission” is a blandly pleasant comedy about one of the least pleasant rites of passage in modern America: the scramble to get into an institute of higher education. It stars Tina Fey as a more cultivated, less hapless version of her “30 Rock” persona, a Princeton admissions officer named Portia Nathan. Like Liz, she’s not married to anything except her job, and, like Liz, she’s regularly cowed by a brazen superior being, in this case her mother, Susannah (Lily Tomlin), a fearsome second-wave feminist who lives off the grid in rural New Hampshire.

By contrast, Portia excels at quashing the expectations of Princeton applicants and their thoroughly obnoxious parents. “Admission” is based on a novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz, and the best parts of the movie — there aren’t enough of them — examine the soul-killing contortions the average high school kid undergoes to present the most stellar version of him or herself. This version, manufactured in college essays and lists of after-school activities, in multiple languages spoken and internships checked off, may have little to do with who the student actually is, and, anyway, how is anyone supposed to choose from thousands of shiny, equally accomplished prodigies? “Just be yourself,” Portia tells them, a bit of useful advice that fools no one.

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