Thirty-five year old Jesse Fisher, an admissions officer at a New York City post-secondary institution he who loves English and literature, has somewhat lost his passion in life, which includes recently being unceremoniously dumped by his latest girlfriend, who could no longer be the person to prop him up emotionally. He has a chance to find that passion again when he is invited to the retirement dinner of his second favorite Ohio University college professor, Peter Hoberg, as his time there was when his life held the most passion. Jesse's encounters with five people there may determine if he does find that passion again. They are: Hoberg, who is resisting the notion of retirement; Judith Fairfield, Jesse's favorite professor, although for a different reason than his like of Hoberg; Nat, a free spirit who navigates life at the institution on his own terms; undergraduate student Dean, who Jesse sees as a younger more destructive version of himself; and nineteen year old undergraduate ... Written by
In the film's opening Radnor's character is reading God of Small Things, whose plot also deals with the 'laws of love', and what happens to those who break these rules - paralleling the characters of the film. See more »
When Dean calls Jesse he identifies himself as the person who reads "Franzen", referring to the book he is always carrying, an author that both he and Jesse enjoy. But, in the hospital scene, the author of the same book is clearly Foster Wallace, that is not mentioned except to say that he killed himself. Franzen is alive and well. See more »
You know, high school to college, it can be a big transition, especially if you're not from the city, so - so we try yo help out with that transition, in a number of ways.
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Psychologically entertaining with a first-rate screenplay
I see this movie as a look at life through the perspectives of different generations. Aging may bring wisdom, (well, at least to some) but it also brings a whole new array of problems; problems that cannot be understood by those outside of a highly specific age range. There may be some communication between generations. We can learn from both those who have gone before us and those younger than us, but this learning is more at the intellectual than emotional level. Thirty-five-year-old Jesse (Josh Radnor) is introduced to classical music by 19-year-old Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) but their perspectives on life challenge their chances to unite in a more personal way.
The film, in some ways, is like the Canterbury Tales (which is mentioned in the movie), only instead of traveling to a city while relating different tales, the characters are traveling through life with different perspectives. We have youthful optimism and idealism, age with its cynicism and bitterness, and middle-age with its realism. There are also perspectives from mysticism and despair. This is more of a psychological movie than an action movie. Although I never lost interest in the story, I am well-aware that this is not what most younger moviegoers are looking for and it is they who will be disappointed in this film. So be it. When today's hottest action films are replaced by those which have better special effects, films like Liberal Arts will endure because they will stand on their own merits, outside of time.
I found the acting good and the screenplay excellent. The interaction between the characters was believable. I cannot imagine anyone other than the writer, Josh Radnor, playing the main role. He plays the part of a man trapped by middle-aged angst to perfection. However, this is not simply a dry intellectual drama. There is a good deal of humor, some great lines, but it is humor that is witty more than physical.
As a classical music fan myself, I liked seeing Jesse discover this genre. I also liked the scene where Jesse tries to bridge the generation gap mathematically, but I can't say more about that here. In short, this is an enjoyable movie, but those looking for goofball comedies or bloody fight scenes should go onto something else. Don't worry. This film will still be around for you to discover when you are ready for it.
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