'Admission' the movie: The case of the serious book turned rom com
What on earth did Tina Fey and Paul Rudd do with Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel?
When I heard Tina Fey had signed on to be the lead in the movie adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz's 2009 novel "Admission" I assumed this meant Fey was venturing into serious drama in her post "30 Rock" days. She'd be playing Portia Nathan, a generally upstanding admissions officer at Princeton who makes a bad decision on an application based on an instinct about the candidate, who is brilliant but academically, a chronic underachiever. Korelitz's "Admission" has an element of romance to it, but there's minimal comedy. It's the compulsively readable story of a contemporary working woman in mid-life crisis. Not "War and Peace," but far from Bridget Jones.
But have you seen the trailer for "Admission," which opens March 22? Check it out.
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As smart Bloomberg book review editor Laurie Muchnick tweeted:
Saw a commercial for "Admission" during 30 Rock. The (really good) book it's based on wasn't a comedy at all. Strange.
Exactly. So what happened? On Focus Features' website, producer Kerry Kohansky-Roberts, admits a lot has changed. "Some characters were eliminated, while others were enhanced. Quite a bit of plot was put in. What didn't change was the sense of connection to these characters."
Is Korelitz okay with what director Paul Weitz and screenwriter Karen Croner did with her novel? Well, she was thrilled with the choice of directors. Here's a quote from the Focus website.
Korelitz remembers, "When I discovered that Paul, who had made "About a Boy," was interested in "Admission," I was beyond elated. I couldn't imagine anyone better to direct the film based on my book."
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I hear where she's coming from. While I'd rather not think about "Little Fockers" ever again, Paul Weitz, working with his brother Chris, did a wonderful job adapting Nick Hornby's "About a Boy." And his 2012 movie "Being Flynn," an adaptation of Nick Flynn's bleak memoir "Another Bull___ Night in Suck City," featured strong performances from Paul Dano and Robert De Niro (Flynn has a new book about the making of "Being Flynn"; more on that soon). Screenwriter Karen Croner previously adapted an Anna Quindlan novel into 1998's "One True Thing" starring Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger (a so-so dead mother weepfest). She knows drama. But as Croner says on the Focus website, she's mined the dramatic aspect of being an admissions officer for comedy.
What really bugs me about the "Admission" trailer is the big old spoiler smack in the middle of it. Rudd's character makes a pronouncement about Portia's connection to this particular candidate. In the book, Portia's gradual realization about that connection is the main element propelling the narrative. And it stays secret to her; she figures it out on her own. The Focus interview with Korelitz doesn't include any reference to that.
"The essence of the story has remained the same," confirms Korelitz. "The script reflects Karen's interpretation of Portia, and the movie reflects Paul Weitz's interpretation. At this point, I'm the grandmother of the character!"
That's a cheery spin and naturally so; no author wants to bite the hand that gives them a movie option. But I wonder whether Korelitz winces when she sees that trailer, even as I understand that to say so would be a big admission.