Tina Fey and Paul Rudd pair up for a romantic comedy which centres around the Princetown University admissions office. Fey plays Portia Nathan, an established admissions officer whose job it is to scout, judge and approve or deny hopeful applicants each year. John (Rudd) is the owner and teacher of a new, developmental school who pursues Nathan to introduce her to a gifted teenager, one he thinks both Princetown and Portia need to be aware of.
There’s glimmers of the classic Lizisms that simply cannot be separated from Portia Nathan. Fey has built a cult fan following from her tenure as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock; a role so iconic that it’s difficult to take her seriously elsewhere, especially when the lines really are blurred between Liz and Portia in this picture.
What’s worse, a former Liz Lemon boyfriend (Michael Sheen) makes an appearance as Nathan’s estranged ex-boyfriend, Mark. Again, he is playing somewhat of a copy of his past sitcom character, Wesley Snipes, especially during their verbal ping pong and awkward scenes together. His role leaves a lot to be desired and the constant, serendipitous meeting of the two is complete fluff and an unnecessary filler.
You get the sense that Fey could have gone a little bit further and characterised Portia that little bit more. She could have made Portia ballsier, more cut-throat and far more serious, thus making an emotional breakthrough all the more satisfying. The level of wackiness and comedy delivered by her is satisfactory.
The story is only slightly soppy, but unusual enough to (just about) keep attention, and with a somewhat unique ending it’s refreshing. With Fey in the leading role you are never really going to get a dud film (Babymama, Date Night) but it’s also probably not going to be groundbreaking. Rudd is a staple of the romantic comedy niche and you can’t fault him, he does play the role well. He is safe and likeable, and the leading pair work well.
Lily Tomlin is especially eccentric and blunt, creating much of the humour while Fey is relegated to the emotional back seat. Their relationship is unusually stiff for most of the film and it seems such a waste as this comedic duo could have brought something brilliant to the silver screen.
The actors are great, the writing is patchy and the storyline really only holds attention as it’s one of the few stories that hasn’t completely been told already.