Anyone who has been through the college admissions process knows how harrowing it can be. But what is it like when you're the one making the decision, rather than waiting for it? In Admission, which opens Friday, Tiny Fey's character gets a rare opportunity to experience the stress on both sides of the application.
Portia, an unmarried Princeton admissions officer, reconnects with John (Paul Rudd), an old classmate who now teaches at an alternative high school. He introduces her to a student who just may be the son she gave up for adoption years ago, and informs her that he is applying to Princeton.
I had such a good time at the press junket for Admission, where my fellow bloggers and I got to meet stars Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, and director Paul Weitz. As a fan of everyone involved -- plus the book itself -- I looked forward to hearing what words of wisdom they would impart about parenting and the college admissions process. Here are some snippets from our press conference:
What attracted each of you to the movie?
Tina Fey: It was such a rich story. You see so many roles where women are kind of chasing motherhood and desperate to experience motherhood, and I really thought it was interesting that this character was very clear in that she did not want to be a mother and she did not want to be married or experience any of that. I hadn't really seen that before.
Paul Rudd: My character -- and what he seemed to be running away from -- seemed incredibly appealing and very cool, and yet really he's very selfish and insecure and his life is not working in the way he set it up for himself. I liked that aspect.
It's rare, these days, to see a movie which addresses parenting concerns. A generation ago, we would've seen them pretty regularly, and they'd star actresses like Diane Keaton and Jill Clayburgh. Paul, what was it like telling the story from the female point of view?
Paul Weitz (laughing): I'd heard that there were women, and I wanted to tell one of their stories! Honestly, I was embarrassed to realize that, although I'd had strong female characters in my films before, there hadn't been one with a clear female lead. It's fun to be in this terrain of sort of comedy-drama because that's what so much of real life is about. Parenting roles are changing at such a rapid pace that if I tried to parent my kids like I was parented, my daughter would laugh in my face and my son would scream at me -- and he wouldn't back down. He's 6.
How did your roles in the movie effect your parenting in real life?
PR: My son is now 8, but I was very nervous about having a kid originally -- just like everyone else. I remember somebody saying to me, "Don't worry. The child will adapt to your life; you don't need to adapt to his life." I thought that was great! Uh-huh. My character has a little bit of that instinct. He's still trying to will that thought to be true. I've also found that in my own life, that, "You know what? I think maybe I should adapt my life a little because I want what's best for my child," and that's what this character is really realizing, too. It's a big lesson.
TF: It's funny because you have such a fragile relationship with the young actors on set. You feel like you are the adult to them for this period of time but you also don't want to be creepy and overly bother them. There was one day at lunch -- I sent one of the kids back to work on his plate. I was like, "No, buddy. There are no colors on that plate." But, later that same day, I let him drink a whole lot of fruit punch. I was, like, "Oh boy," but then I'd think, "Well, he's not really your kid ..."
In the movie, Portia buys books on how to communicate with your child. How have you kept up with your own kids' different stages of development?
TF: When your kids are really little, you just read What to Expect. But I would get into a rut where, at 11 months, I would still be relying on the same routine I had set up at 6 months. At some point, you realize you have to keep changing with them.
PR: You try to delay development as much as possible, right?
PW: The movie is so much about not getting what you expect in life but understanding that if you have the ability to change and grow, that's really the greatest tool. Both of these characters have to change so much.
There's a line in the movie that people think that getting their kids into college is a referendum on their parenting. Do you agree?
TF: I think that line in the movie is very true. People do think it's a referendum on their parenting, that it's about how well they did. And that's such a dangerous trap we all fall into. I will go too far, like, "We are going to make the nicest cookies for the cookie thing," and then they're on the ground a minute later. Avoiding those kind of traps and just being present for your child is a lifelong lesson that I keep trying to learn.
Do you think it's harder to get kids into college or a New York City kindergarten?
TF: New York City kindergarten, for sure. There are so many kids living on this little island. How can you possibly evaluate a 5-year-old? What if you take them that day and they have to poop? It's over.
Tina, on the final episode of "30 Rock," Liz gets into an online argument in a mommy blog chat room. Do you do that in real life?
TF: I don't know how to post so I promise you I've never posted. I've seen people pretending to be me post on Urban Baby because I had a friend call me and ask, "Are you on Urban Baby?" and I said, "No." I didn't even know what that was. I do think they have some of the worst human behavior I've ever seen. Terrible.
Is anyone here from Urban Baby?
TF: No, there's no one running Urban Baby or they would fix it. Also, someone on Urban Baby once called me a wide load. While not inaccurate, it did not seem necessary.
What did you learn while doing the movie that might get your own kids into Princeton when they reach that age?
TF: Well, hopefully what we learned is (goes into singsong voice) that it doesn't matter if they don't get into Princeton. (pause) They will learn a lot in the army.
PR: What if they don't get into the army?
PW: It won't matter. College will all be on the Internet by then -- for two dollars.