Saturday, October 19, 2013

Admission -- losing all, secret formulas

Director: Paul Weitz, 2013 (PG-13)

Admission is a light romantic-comedy featuring Tina Fey (DateNight) as Portia Nathan and Paul Rudd (Dinnerfor Schmucks) as John Pressman centered around the admissions process for an ivy league university. Its shallow and superficial nature means you don’t need a degree from Harvard, or in this case Princeton, to understand. And despite a number of negative reviews, the charming chemistry between the two leads make this a likeable, if B-grade, date night movie.

Portia is an admissions officer for Princeton. Her long-term relationship with her pompous professor boyfriend Mark (Michael Sheen, seemingly reprising his character role from Midnight in Paris), is routine. He job is rote. Her life is dull. Three factors entwine to rock her world. First, Princeton drops in the college rankings to number 2. With Dean of Admissions (Wallace Shawn, The Princess Bride) about to retire, he wants to regain pole position, and Portia wants his job but faces stiff competition from another admissions offer Corrine (Gloria Reuben). Second, Mark leaves her for another academic snob. And third, she meets Paul and one of his students Jeremiah (Nat Wolff).

Paul is a nomadic teacher at an alternative school, one where milking and birthing cows is on the syllabus. It is here at New Quest, that Portia meets Paul and Paul’s adoptive son and student Jeremiah. Paul has a secret he needs to share with Portia, one that will define the course of the second half of the film.

Through the course of the film, Portia loses it all. But at the end, as in most romantic comedies she gains what she really needs. Indeed, she had to lose it all to get to that climactic position.

Here, then, is the first theme and a biblical one in fact. Jesus said, “whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Lk. 9:24). And in the parable of the hidden treasure, Jesus declared: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Mt. 13:44). We must lose our lives in Christ to really gain true life. Only when we have hit rock bottom are we really in a position to accept by faith the gift of God. Testimonies abound of this timeless truth.

Stealing the film, however, is Lily Tomlin as Portia’s ultra-feminist single mother. Whether wielding her shotgun or fixing her bike, she brings laughs to every scene she is in.

A second theme emerges from Portia’s Princeton pitch, which she delivers multiple times to different student audiences: “You all want to know the secret formula for getting in.” Parents and kids alike, they all sit a little taller and listen a little harder when she says this. Everyone, it seems, wants to know this secret formula.

What about the secret formula for getting into heaven? What is the admissions secret for getting into that number one ranked destination? Listen up. It’s no great secret. Jesus told his disciples he was leaving them to go to heaven (Jn. 14:2-4). When asked how to get there, he told them, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). The secret formula is Jesus.  If we believe in him though faith and receive him into our lives we will become children of God (Jn. 1:12). Then we can have confidence that when we graduate this educational experience we call earthly life, we will enter the graduate school of heaven. More prestigious than Princeton, this destination is open to all who would claim Christ. Admission is free to all who choose. Grace has paid the entry fee.

Copyright ©2013, Martin Baggs

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