P. Weitz


S. Stuber and R. Howard




Focus Features



Running time:

107 min


Romantic comedy-drama




Blu Ray, DVD


University administration (Admissions officer), Princeton University, University admissions process, Class Differences, helicopter parents, based on novel
When Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at Princeton University, discovers that one applicant, Jerimiah — an endearingly quirky kid from an alternative school — may be the long-lost son that she regretfully gave up for adoption many years ago, she risks her career to ensure he can become a Princeton Man.
Teaching Notes:
Portrayal of women in academic administration :
Given the film's title and purported subject matter, one can be forgiven for anticipating that it might address such issues as the national psychosis afflicting American helicopter parents over getting their kids into an elite college, its connection to social class divisions, the American educational system's obsession with standardized testing; or even an inside look at the byzantine admissions process of an Ivy Leage school like Princeton. However, the film's depiction of academic life, and university admissions, is limited to a few establishing shots, and a few brief scenes depicting a coterie of admissions committee members gathered in an oak-paneled boardroom, presided over by a suitably stereotyped balding gnome in funerial dress, as they debate at length the individual merits of each applicant; rather like the Nobel Prize selection jury.

Instead, Admission is a romantic comedy about Portia Nathan, a woman who regrets having given up her child for adoption during her wild and crazy years. A recent breakup has apparently destroyed her self-esteem, and Portia is now angst-ridden over the awful prospect of middle age as a single professional woman in a well-respected career at a prestigious university. It's not long before Portia is yearning for what is truly important in life — maternal fulfillment — and when a guidance counselor tells her that one of his students, Jerimiah, may well be her long-lost son. Jerimiah is a quirky young fellow and aspiring Princetonian, with a shy demeanor that sometimes hides the fact that he is a junior genius with "multiple intelligences" (a trait that has become fashionable in Hollywood films about geniuses). All that is required to make Portia's life complete is romantic and marital fulfillment, which is conveniently provided by Jerimiah's guidance counselor (but who comes across more as a surrogate father). Apparently, even the prospect of renewed motherhood will make Portia do anything — including tampering with admissions files and hacking into Princeton's computer system — to ensure that Jerimiah becomes a Princeton man.

Portia has now sacrificed her career and professional reputation to become a helicopter mother, joining the hordes of helicopter parents who pester professors and administrators on campuses throughout America. Woodrow Wilson, during his tenure as Princeton's president, tried his best to mitigate its snobbish and elitist attributes, and democratize the admissions policies. While he would be disappointed to see how elitism, class and wealth have today become even more entrenched at elite American universities, he would be more astounded by films like this, which pander an appeasingly opposite impression to mass audiences. Both ironies were apparently lost on the film's director and screenwriter, as well as Jean Hanff Korelitz, who wrote the novel on which the film was based.