Liberal Arts (2012) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
86 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Psychologically entertaining with a first-rate screenplay
SteveMierzejewski16 December 2012
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.
64 out of 72 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Great movie for college students and grads
Chocolate_Swan7 June 2012
*This review was previously submitted as an assignment in my film class, which is the reason for its formality and structure.*

"Liberal Arts," written and directed by Josh Radnor, deals with the often-crushing reality of post-college life and the pedestal on which the seemingly idyllic college years are placed. Though the film often runs the risk of becoming an intellectually preachy vanity piece, its genuinely smart writing and relentlessly likable cast elevates it to an honest, enjoyable study of college and its aftermath.

Radnor stars as 35-year-old Jesse, a college recruiter with an unmarketable English/history degree who is nostalgic for his own days at a picturesque Ohio university. When an old professor (Richard Jenkins) invites him back to campus for his retirement dinner, Jesse finds himself drawn to smart, peppy student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), despite his discomfort at the age difference between them. While exploring their latent relationship at his alma mater, Jesse encounters his most influential former professor (Allison Janney), a clinically depressed student (John Magaro), and some realizations about his own aims in life.

Given the subject matter and setting, it's expected that the characters will pride themselves on their intellect and sophistication, and this gives way to some contrived, artsy dialogue, such as a letter montage (never easy to pull off) between Jesse and Zibby in which they wax poetic about classical music, which sounds smart in writing but comes off as unconvincing and pretentious when spoken, accompanied heavy-handedly by poignant New York scenery. However, the witty, laugh-out-loud dialogue usually keeps the film and characters from feeling like they take themselves too seriously, making determinedly highbrow scenes like this clash uncomfortably with the generally self-aware tone.

Radnor writes his character into enough glamorous situations (all the significant female characters sleep with him or try to at some point) and makes him sound over-educated enough that the film could have easily felt like a shameless vanity piece, but he plays Jesse so affably that there's not much room to mind. It's quite believable that his character would attract even young girls, with his naturally youthful looks and self-deprecating charm. Olsen does well with an even more challenging character; Zibby comes dangerously close to the "manic pixie dream girl" archetype of indies, but Olsen plays her with a sweet innocence that never feels fake and, when called on for dramatic moments, she is every bit a real college girl – wounded, vulnerable, and ultimately clueless about where she's going in life. Zac Efron flits in and out as a wisdom-dispensing stoner who may or may not be a figment of Jesse's imagination, offering some of the best laughs in the film.

Arguably the best performances, though, are given by Jenkins and Magaro. Jenkins plays the professor every student wants; like the film itself, he doesn't take himself too seriously but is utterly devoted to the school. He delivers some of the best acting in the film when he pleads for his job back mere days after retiring. Magaro is strangely touching as a college student perhaps closer to the norm than the Zibbies of the world: miserable in school, there solely to please his family, and constantly on the brink of a mental breakdown. In his limited screen time, he creates an oddly heart-winning character despite his sullen demeanor.

"Liberal Arts" is an enjoyable, cleverly written film that should strike a note with college students current and former. The witty writing and earnest cast make its few pretentious missteps easy to brush off affectionately.
64 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
A romantic take on the collegiate experience
jdesando1 October 2012
"And binding with briars my joys and desires." William Blake, from Songs of Experience

Liberal Arts is a small, endearing film about idealism, the reality of life, the complicated nature of aging, and the beauty of experience. The briars play a part, but mostly it's about the romanticism of academia versus the reality of growing old. That's quite a bit for 97 minutes, but writer/director Josh Radnor does an admirable job setting straight the hopes that a superior education like his at Kenyon College can foster.

This lyrical film, like the simple poem that opens this review, makes no grand demands as it juxtaposes the beauty of undergraduate reading and writing with the reality of love not quite mature enough and maturity not ready enough. New York City college admissions counselor Jesse (Josh Radnor) at 35 returns to his college to visit a retiring professor, Peter (Richard Jenkins), and falls for a 19 year old coed, Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen). Radnor's alma mater, Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, is the beautiful location although not identified.

The complications may be obvious given the differences in their ages, but the issues are spot on—and because I lived that plot as a youngish college administrator I congratulate Radnor for neither over-romanticizing nor condemning youthful idealism and the encroachments of "life," described as "happening" after graduation and mitigating the romanticism a college English major fosters. That the pop cult ascendance of the Vampire Trilogy may trump the lofty literature of college does not subvert the notion that everything is good given the right place and time.

The sweetness of the film reaffirms Mr. Radnor as a dreamer of quality, a thinker who confirms life's ambiguities and its promise to those who "say yes" to everything. Again, Blake in Songs of Innocence confirms the efficacy of positive thinking, in this case of feeling the godhead's presence:

He doth give his joy to all;/ He becomes an infant small;/ He becomes a man of woe; / He doth feel the sorrow too.

"It's not Tolstoy, but it's not television, and it makes me happy," Zibby says about reading a vampire trilogy. The same could be said of this simple romance underpinned by Blake's realistic optimism.
37 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Surprisingly great...
I am not the type of guy who would watch this movie. In fact, I don't even really know why I did. It was just a tough day and I didn't want to watch a movie that was in the triple digit minutes, so I went with this one. Usually I watch action movies, or political dramas. I don't like to read books or romantic movies, even less I like Arts, hence there is nothing that would make me appreciate it, I thought. But I was wrong. This movie is surprisingly great. I caught myself laughing and thinking about life. It was just a beautiful piece of art. A piece of art even I appreciate. On top I never write reviews, but this was just extraordinary.
33 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
That's how he should have met your Mother.
quitwhileyouareahead9 April 2013
First of all, I have to say, Josh plays himself. At least it is the same Josh that is in "How I met your Mother" and his other great effort Happythankyoumoreplease. Normally that would be a criticism,but he is so likable and so watchable you don't care. Sort of like James Stewart. Also, I guessed that he wrote it himself as the dialogue and the emotions (or lack of) were very realistic. The only thing that wasn't believable about Elizabeth was her age as they probably should have made her character a little older. Otherwise, she was outstanding and her personality was seductive giving credibility to his infatuation with her. Richard Jenkins was great as usual and Zac offered some oddball humor. I loved the movie and all the characters which is a nice change with some of the depressing movies out there.

Oh, and watch the deleted scenes. I'm not going to argue for their inclusion but they are enjoyable.
22 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Entertaining, humorous, and charming.
joshua-halstead1 January 2013
These days it is very rare to find a well rounded film with a good moral. While Josh Radnor is know for his raunchy sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," he has many hidden talents that the show does not utilize. As a writer, director, and actor he is superb, and he brings a refreshing change of pace to not only the drama industry, but the film industry in general. From the opening sequence to the credits the film is thoroughly entertaining, and intelligent. Elizabeth Olsen was enthusiastic and energetic, just as Zibby should have been portrayed. Zac Efron was surprisingly humorous, and his slightly off-key character adds a certain lightness to such a dramatic film. Every cast member was perfectly cast, the script is humor, entertaining, and charming. The most astonishing aspect of the film was the use of a classical soundtrack, a general push toward fine arts, great classic literature references, and the idea presented that love and music join us all together. No matter what your particular tastes in film in I urge you to take the time and watch 'Liberal Arts,' you will not be sorry.
28 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Liberal Arts - A+
Catt Jones21 April 2012
I am going to start out by saying that I loved this film. I think that Josh Radnor did an excellent job writing, directing and starring in this film. The film conveyed that no matter how old you get, you still have more growing to do. The film also demonstrated the hustle and bustle of city life and the calm, serene climate of the country. It also took me back to my years in college and how intense that part of your life really is and the influence that it has on you. There is always one or two instructors that makes an impression on you in college and for Jesse (Josh Radnor) it was Professor Judith Fairfield (Allison Janney) and Professor Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins). Judith was feisty and deliberate and had a no-holds-barred kind of attitude, while Peter was struggling with his decision-making skills. (By the way, my favorite professor was Dr. Spradley who taught me all about technical writing). The relationship that develops between Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) and Jesse is educational in the fact that they both have something to learn from the other. I think that the lessons that they learned maybe even educated the audience a little (I know that is how I felt). The relationship between Jesse and Dean (John Magaro) was a heart-tugging event. Dean kind of reminded me of Will in Good Will Hunting. There are people in this world that are naturally talented in certain things and that is the one thing that they want to do the least. The only character that seemed to have everything pretty much figured out was Nat (Zac Efron). Out of all the characters in this film, I liked him the most. He was quirky, funny and surprisingly insightful. I remember thinking that as strange as he was; I could see myself hanging out with him. Every time he would appear on screen you just knew that he was going to put a smile on your face. I still have a couple of films to see during this film festival, but I have to say that so far this one is my favorite. I hope that when this film comes out to the general public that it does really well. Josh should be very proud of himself for putting together such an engaging piece of work. Pure entertainment! I am giving this film and A+ and a glaring green light.
58 out of 77 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
A film about maturity and growing up and the beauty of words and music.
ffuuut19 December 2012
A very watchable independent rom-com that delves deeper than the usual Hollywood studio version. A film about maturity and growing up and the beauty of words and music.

I particularly liked the intelligence and wit of the script, the use of Classical music and what it can do to you and the highlighting of the difference in location from bustling grey New York to the beautiful quiet greenery of Ohio.

I did find that the main character, written, directed and portrayed by Josh Radnor was too perfect. He was intelligent, sensitive, funny, moralistic and empathetic all rolled up in this cute little package. However, if he had not written it for himself it may not have annoyed me as much. I also found Olsen as the wise beyond her years 19 year old to be rather annoying at certain points, but take out those slightly annoying characteristics, some predictable elements and a pretty awful sub-plot involving Zac Efron and the screenplays words and meaning are too enjoyable to let those things spoil it for you.

Oh and Allison Janney and Richard Jenkins steal every scene they are in.

"nobody thinks they're adult, it's the worlds darkest secret" or words to that affect...
17 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Intelligent & Warm Hearted Comedy
Larry Silverstein7 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I liked this warm hearted and intelligent comedy, written and directed by Josh Radnor, a lot more than his first film "Happythankyoumoreplease'.

Radnor also stars in the movie as Jesse Fisher, a 35 year old well read nice guy working as an admissions interviewer at a New York City college. He receives a call from his favorite former college professor, portrayed by the skilled veteran actor Richard Jenkins. Jenkins asks him if he can come to Ohio to attend his retirement party at his university, where he's stepping down after 37 years of teaching.

Radnor accepts and while there meets Zibby, played by the superbly talented Elizabeth Olsen. She's 19 years old and a student there, as well as the daughter of friends of Jenkins. They're attracted to each other but Radnor hesitates at starting a relationship with her due to the age difference.

Subsequently, what happens between them takes some unexpected twists and turns. I'll leave that to the viewer to see what happens.

There are some wonderful supporting performances as well. Allison Janney is a hoot as a jaded imperious former English Romantics professor of Radnor's. Zac Efron, in a small but important role, plays a Zen-like philosopher who proffers up some interesting advice. Plus, Elizabeth Reaser adds well to the mix as a bookstore employee who may be a potential love interest for Radnor.

All in all, not everything works in the film, sometimes going off the rails, but overall I enjoyed this quirky, intelligent comedy whose genre seems to be getting rarer and rarer in today's films.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Charm and Wonderful Acting Make for a Worthwhile Watch
Sal Belmondo6 January 2013
The hyphenate that is this Josh Radnor guy presents a somewhat thin but ultimately rewarding film with LIBERAL ARTS. The story is a charming one—jaded New Yorker makes an excursion back to his alma mater in Ohio and meets a much younger and gorgeous kindred spirit who forces him to self-reflect. But unfortunately, it's also a story that provides enough material for an 80 minute film which Radnor stretches out to around 97 minutes. Thus, some of the film drags a bit. Luckily, Radnor casts actors with incredible talent who breathe life into the film when it begins to deflate.

Elizabeth Olsen, specifically, is an ace. In a character reversal from her breakthrough in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, she is beautiful and funny, effortlessly natural. The scenes featuring her make the film. Watching her this early in her career and contemplating just how much potential she has and what she'll be able to do with it is exciting for any movie lover. Richard Jenkins is wonderful as always, as is Allison Janney. Even Zac Efron, making a humorous cameo appearance, helps liven things up a bit. The bond shared between Radnor's character and a depressed, anti-social undergrad, played by John Magaro, is particularly sincere.

The film seems to be a meditative-lite work. It's brooding and thoughtful, but it's not something that will permeate your thoughts or stick with you days after watching. But it isn't supposed to be. (At least I don't think so.) The film is probably significantly more appealing to a select group of people—mainly those with a "liberal arts" background, or those able to register all of the literary references—but that is not to say the film is only for some. The pleasant romantic-comedy-ish-drama story and the aforementioned acting is enough to create a film anyone can enjoy if they try. If the viewer tries to get past the somewhat pretentious collegiate talk, tries to hold on for the somewhat slow moments, tries to watch the film as a light and entertaining piece to pass 90-something minutes, it's highly recommended. Seek it out.
14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Great Film
kyndelc4 November 2012
I just watched "Liberal Arts" tonight and I loved it. If you have been to college, and had the complex bright future/bleak future talk with yourself, you will understand this movie.

To me college was about hope, but it was also about facing the real reality of life, and after college is when the real work begins, more emotional growth than anything. I loved Josh's Radner's character, he was a little lost, and kind of reaching back to days of old hoping to re-kindle some of that passion and drive he once had when he was in college. Elizabeth Olsen's character was great as well, she had the I'm-too-mature-for-my-age-group sort of attitude, that proved just how young she really was. The rest of the cast was fabulous, Richard Jenkins, who I have alway's loved, and Allison Janey, who surprisingly was not the usual character you see with her. This is a movie you take friends to, and then go out for coffee and have a great conversation.
28 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Can you go home again?
john3293520 January 2015
Going for the triple play, writer-director-lead actor Josh Radnor concocts a sweet story of aging and the attempt to recapture youth. But as the lead character learns, and as anyone who has ever gone back to their college campus years after graduation knows, you realize your formerly special place and the people there have moved on without you. Attempts to recapture old glories generally fail, but that does not mean new glories do not await.

The supporting cast is excellent. The story has enough twists and avoids (most) clichés. And while the dramatic tension is only mid-range, the movie takes the viewer on a pleasant ride with just a touch of bittersweet nostalgia. Lastly, the dialog is realistic and just a wee bit witty.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Nice Job Ted
dansview27 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I was so ready to hate this film. I thought it would be pretentious and smarmy, and glorify liberalism. It didn't. I thoroughly believed the main character, who was also the film maker.

He cast himself as an ineffectual dreamer who would rather read The Romantics and discuss them over a cup of coffee, than tackle the rigors of grown up life. My guess is that Josh Radnor is probably similar to this in real life. I know I am.

I must be 100 years old, because apparently this young "Olsen" woman in the film is the younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley, the twin babies from the 80s sitcom world.

She was really impressive in this role. I think she was about four years older than the character she was playing, which was obvious, but she did capture the arrogance, vulnerability, and confusion of the typical secular college girl with remarkable freshness. Again, I totally believed her, and you can't ask for more than that from an actor.

At the crucial moment when the main character has a chance for self gratification at the expense of someone else's life story, he controls himself in the name of "morality," and even labels it so. That was the greatest thing about this movie. "Guilt before action is called morality," he says. No doubt hearkening back to his (Josh's) Jewish school background.

The character actors played their roles more than adequately. I'm not sure I believed the Zac Efron and Allison Janney characters, but I don't blame them. Josh may have written them a bit too one dimensional.

There is a crucial scene in the beginning when we see our protagonist get his laundry stolen and only chase the culprit half-heartedly. I'm sure that was to show us that he was a wimpy guy by nature. You might wonder how any women would fall for such a stymied loser, but the main girl was looking for a starter-boyfriend and he was the perfect non-threatening subject.

That's not to say that our guy was a total loser. He was not. He had many lovely and endearing qualities, but just hadn't figured out how to master situations, rather than be mastered by them. By the end of the picture, you got the feeling that this might change, given his acquired wisdom.

I loved the scenery. This includes the particular shots of New York City, and the deliberately contrasting sylvan innocence of the Ohio countryside.

This film takes its' characters through a process of maturation and all are the better for it. There are people to care about and root for, and some admirable morality. People help each other and reach out to one another without an agenda, for the most part.

Like other reviewers have said, it walked that fine line that could have collapsed into preachy pretension, but it didn't happen. The closest it came was some letters analyzing the deeper meaning of classical music. But the fresh and innocent joy the characters experienced in writing and receiving the letters, protected the process.

There is no mention of God in this film. What do you expect from a film set on a college campus? Yet there was a scene set in a campus chapel. That was brave. Thank God that movies like this are still made, to counterbalance the garbage that Hollywood Libs. dump upon us.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Radnor Relives His College Days with a Lightweight, Literate Romantic Dramedy
Ed Uyeshima24 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This lightweight 2012 dramedy marks the sophomore effort of screenwriter/director Josh Radnor who is better known as being part of the ensemble of the long-running CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother". Similar to another directorial venture from an actor with TV roots, Zach Braff's "Garden State", it's a charming enough effort, quite literate but ultimately inconsequential. He cast himself as Jesse Fisher, a 35- year-old admissions counselor who leaves New York to visit his bucolic alma mater in Ohio to attend the retirement party for Peter Hoberg, one of his favorite professors. In a decidedly nostalgic mood, Jesse strikes up a platonic relationship with Zibby, a 19-year-old sophomore who appreciates classical music, loves her improv class, and unapologetically enjoys vampire romance novels. Radnor deftly wraps his story in the romance of academia and cultural discernment at the same time showing his character's discontent about growing old without fulfilling the dreams he held in his youth on the same campus.

Radnor must think Jesse's discontent is endemic since he also shows Hoberg grappling with post-retirement life as well as the harsh cynicism of Judith Fairfield, a Romantics professor who reveals herself as a cougar holding no sentiment about former students who worshipped her in the classroom. There's also sad-eyed Dean, a suicidal student whom Jesse sees as a kindred spirit, and a new-age eccentric named Nat who pops up now and then to tell Jesse to go with the flow. Meanwhile, the courtship between Jesse and Zibby is handled with chaste affection until they face the inevitable moment when they face what their relationship is about. Radnor is amiable as the sometimes condescending Jesse, but his puppyish manner doesn't leave an indelible impression. He got lucky with the superb actors he was able to secure. Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") plays Hoberg with fierce pride and vulnerability, expertly handling a scene where the humiliated professor asks for his job back. As Fairfield, Allison Janney ("The Help") lends her sharp-tongued brand of steely intelligence to a character type we have seen from her many times.

Once again, Elizabeth Olsen shows how she is shaping a fine career in small indie films - a standout in "Martha Marcy May Marlene", one of the few redeeming features of "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" and now this assured turn as an open-minded, precocious coed who begins to see Jesse as the soulmate who could transcend their significant age difference. She brings a smart, zestful quality that helps the film glide over its potentially more unsavory moments. John Magaro plays Dean close to the vest since the part appears ill-defined, while Zac Efron is merely distracting playing strictly against type as Nat. Playing what amounts to a convenient plot device, Elizabeth Reaser ("Sweet Land") has a few brief scenes as an age-appropriate bookstore clerk back in New York. Cinematographer Seamus Tierney filmed Radnor's story on the campus of the actor's actual alma mater, Kenyon College, where Janney also graduated. It's a pretty place that will make you become wistful about your own college days.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Good despite the lead
PrestF410 July 2014
There were a lot of things to like about "Liberal Arts". The problem with this film is the same problem that Radnor's more famous series "HIMYM" suffered from. Radnor is the main character. Radnor is not a compelling character. He's just a whiny malcontent. In "HIMYM" he is constantly whining about not being married. Here he is whining about not being young. As in the series, he is surrounded by a capable cast of interesting and compelling characters. Elizabeth Olsen makes the most of a limited part. She leaves you wanting to know more. Richard Jenkins creates a compelling storyline that goes unfinished. I'm not sure I wanted to see more of Zac Efron or Allison Janney, but they both were excellent and entertaining making the most of their supporting roles. At the end of it all I wanted the story to revert back to their stories. Instead we are stuck with Radnor, and I just couldn't care less.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
When I Grow Too Old To Dream ...
writers_reign12 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
... I may forget this charming, achingly lovely film. I hadn't really heard of any of these exceptionally talented people with the exception of Zac Ephron - and I had to look him up on IMDb to find out he was in High School Musical, which I haven't seen). This is a wonderfully adult movie in danger of being lost amidst the Multiplex fodder all around us. Josh Radnor is no Orson Welles but he is a very gifted writer-director-actor who has delivered a warm, delightful meditation on the Human Condition. His character has encounters with three very different women and all of them deliver inch-perfect performances. Love, illusory and real is just one of the plot strands and the dozens of literary reference that leaven the text contrive to leave the impression of eating a Krispy Kreme laced with an eight-to-one martini. One of the best films of the year blowing pretentious pap like Anna Karenina out of the water.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Unsentimental Education
wainscoat-14 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I was prepared to hate this movie, but I loved it. "Liberal Arts" is the very rare modern movie that is actually about something, other than the pleasant passing of 90 minutes with clever and attractive people.

To me, it seemed like "Liberal Arts" tried to deal with the idea that the life of the mind begins in college and is then immediately crushed the day after college. This can sometimes make the believers in this life angry and inert and disappointed for the rest of their lives, to the point that the whole value of college, or thinking, is questioned. Questioned, but never totally disbelieved.

Mr. Radnor was born the year before I went to college, but I still found much of his excellent writing to be a heartfelt, but unsentimental, depiction of the struggles that adults face every day.

Like many of his characters, I too found that reading is often so much more interesting than living, to the extent that I had to give up meaningful reading fifteen years ago to raise a family. "Liberal Arts" made me long to pick up a real book again, while continuing to question if the intensity of that longing is good or bad
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Boring and Contrived
dreagan11021 October 2012
Liberal Arts comes out of the gate with a funny enough opening scene. Then follows it up with 90 minutes of irritating, contrived garbage.

How this film has garnered any kind of positive buzz or praise is beyond me. It is as bad a film as I've ever seen - and given its somewhat modest goal of being a low key character study, the failure is intensified.

This is a film that will live or die on the depth of it's characters and the emotional engagement they prompt from the audience. Liberal Arts has some of the most hollow characters I've ever seen in a movie of it's kind. Our hero is boring and devoid of charisma. We're literally just told he's likable. The love interest is the typical geek fantasy - endlessly plucky, energetic, free thinking and just what the doctor ordered to awaken the soul of the protagonist. In other words, fake. The various college kids that inexplicably take a liking to the hero are just sketches of people - there to serve a purpose, but without any hint of a soul.

Things happen in the plot, of course - but you won't care. The movie goes through various motions and is surrounded by music and camera moves. But none of it matters a bit, because you won't care about the characters. You may as well try and enjoy sock puppet theater for its emotional heft.

Save the time and money. See something else.
22 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Most Pretentious Movie Ever Made!
uwa28 May 2013
Somebody must help Josh Radnor in all departments of film making. He doesn't know even the first thing about writing a movie. I mean who does even give him budget to write or direct a movie? if he does these kind of movies because of How I Met Your Mother, I am no longer watching that show.

He clearly wants whole world to know that he is actually Ted, nothing more. This movie is a How I Met Your Mother spin off(he even wears the same shirt for god sake) but no so funny or clever or in anyway romantic. I think Josh Radnor watched Garden State and loved it, tried to do something like that but his own voice was more important to him than the movie. I think he records his own voice during the day and he listens to while he goes to sleep.

İf you like watching people saying that they read books or you can not get enough Ted, this is your movie. Otherwise just burn the damn thing.
9 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Chix Chat on Film Review: Grow up already.
Emma Dinkins23 April 2012
My expectation for this film was a romantic comedy, and it delivered on the romance, but especially on the comedy. The tone throughout was very witty, and there was a romance with New York, with music, and almost everyone. This turned out to be the second coming of age tale I happened to catch at the 2012 DIFF, fortunately this one was much more light-hearted than the first. Liberal Arts delves into the life of Jesse Fisher (Josh Radnor), who has just broken up with his girlfriend and is invited back to his old alma mater by a retiring favored professor. This gives Jesse time away from his current existence and in the process he gains some new perspective on life in general. Returning to the university has Jesse overjoyed because some of his happiest memories were during his time there and during this time he meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), Nat (Zac Efron) and Dean (John Magaro). I found the dynamic between Jesse and Zibby to be fun and reenergizing, because although she is considerably younger than Jesse, she has some simple truths that she imparts on him that he needs, specifically that some things are done just because they make you happy. Zibby is like most college students, not nearly as smart as she thinks, but she brings out some things in Jesse that he had lost or forgotten. The warmth between Jesse and Zibby was only balanced out by the bleakness of aging from the perspective of Jesse's favorite instructor Judith Fairfield (Allison Janney), who had at least one more profound lesson to impart, and the professor who invited him back, Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins). Nat was Yoda, and that's as much as I'll say about that. Jesse really did not have a growth spurt until after he upped his acquaintance with Dean. Dean was the antithesis of Zibby, and was very convincingly in a struggle that to the outside it would seem there should be no struggle at all. The time with Jesse is what I believe made Jesse understand what it is to truly be adult about things. This film like most that are character driven was nice, funny and insightful, but for me it did not require the big screen. Yes there was an opening chase scene, but this could have been a movie of the week on the small screen. I could and possibly would watch it again, and did enjoy it so I give it an amber light.
9 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Pretty good
Red_Identity15 January 2013
There's one reason I decided to see this film, and that's Elizabeth Olsen. Her performance in the 2011 film Martha Marcy May Marlene made me a huge fan. It was a portrayal that showed so much talent. She also gave one of the most fantastic portrayals of undeniable fear in the less successful Silent House. So really, I wanted to see Olsen in a different light, in something that wasn't as dark as those films.

The first act of Liberal Arts was really rough. A lot of it wasn't hitting correctly, it just felt so awkward and false. It all felt too "written", the jokes and the dialogue didn't come across all that sincere. But there was still something oddly likable about the characters, so I kept with it. Good thing I did, because I actually liked it overall. It's certainly nothing memorable and it surely has several script flaws, but again, there was something so likable about it all. One problem is Josh Radnor. I think that overall this was a success, and like I said, his directing and writing, while nothing amazing, did the job. But, I never bought his performance here. There's nothing outright bad about it, but to my surprise, there's no real charisma to the way he plays Jesse. He's either too dull or he comes across with fake earnestness one too many times.

But alas, what really helps the film is the ensemble cast, all pretty great. Jenkins is, well, Jenkins (a compliment) and Zac Efron a blast, showing me that perhaps he has real acting talent. John Magaro's character could have come across like a total failure, but, I bought it and he was effective. But alas, not to be a fanboy or anything, but what Radnor lacks in screen presence Elizabeth Olsen makes up for. You can't take your eyes off her, the way she delivers lines and how she comes across like someone who has been doing this for countless of years. There's a unique quality to her that makes her believable even without having to do much. I have only seen three performances from her, but already she's one of the people I will be following most closely in terms of careers. Let's hope she has a successful one.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Surprisingly great film!
dancinhomer210 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Most folks only know Josh Radnor from his work in "How I Met Your Mother," which is certainly serviceable but doesn't show the depth he clearly has. I also watched "happythankyoumoreplease" which was okay, but this is the high point of his career.

Everyone wishes they were at a different point in their lives. Young people want to be older. Middle-aged people want to be younger. Older people are smart enough to only want to turn back the clock to middle age... and as I write that, I catch myself thinking, "Well, I'd want to be younger if I could quit focusing on how much better life will be when I get older," so there you go.

Anyway, the point is (and the point of the film is) we all need to pursue happiness with where we are at whatever point we find ourselves. Yesterday isn't coming back and most of us have already wasted enough of our todays dreaming about tomorrows. And whatever age we are, there is someone who would gladly trade, so why not find peace with that?

This was a very thought-provoking film for me, and I doubt I'll ever look at life the same way again.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Amazing movie!
maria joao3 March 2013
'Liberal Arts' is an amazing movie. It is not about love, not about college. It is about life in general, the doubts and fears you face on different phases of your life. Unlike most movies nowadays, it is intelligent, philosophical, interesting, but still a light movie. It teaches you valuable life lessons without being too obvious about it. It is not the kind of movie that just tries to push lessons down your throat. You actually learn them yourself, through observing the behaviors and problems of the characters.

The cast is amazing, as well as the storyline and the production of the movie. Radnor should be unbelievably proud of this film.

In 'Liberal Arts', you'll find at least one character to relate to. There are different generations portrayed by different characters, all of which represent a specific time in your life or a specific feeling, doubt, fear. The movie was extremely well-thought. The dialogs are very interesting and never boring. The events may seem forced at the time, but at the end of the movie everything makes sense. Not all the answers are delivered in this movie, which gives you room to try and decide what happened by yourself.

This is one of those movies that will make you feel something. You'll be thinking of it for a long while. I highly recommend it.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
Brilliant Film
Niall-Wade_9618 December 2012
This is now the second film that Josh Radnor has stared in, written and also directed. Radnor's first film HappyThankYouMorePlease was a very emotional film in my opinion and Radnor did a fantastic job in all three roles in which he participated. This film is no objection with fantastic screenplay and story line and not to mention the elegant writing style that Radnor wrote for this film.

Firstly i'd like to go into depth with Radnor's writing style. When i hear some of the dialogue that Radnor wrote like "Fortune never smiles on those who say no" my mind drives to William Shakespeare, not as such as Williams poetic style but Radnor's is just as quirky and creative by seeming that his dialogue is that of a novel(Radnor writes like a novel). This is quite ironic because his character Jessie Fisher is also a Book lover.

The Film was well put together as it demonstrated the busy lifestyle of the city and the calm of a gentle country town. The film was very realistic in my opinion, Jessie seems confused and a little sceptical when it came to the romance with Zibby (Elisabeth Olsen)also showing that no matter how old we are we can still learn things off of each other.

Elisabeth Olsen (Zibby) played her part brilliantly and some could say she was born to play the part. Zibby's character to me is a open intelligent teen who is growing up to fast, she wants a man that is mature and intelligent like herself, she pushes herself to hard to have a romantic relationship with Jessie.

They're many other fantastic parts to the film like the story of Prof Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins)Prof Judith Fairfield (Allison Janney). They're both fantastic characters and actors and their relationship with Jessie is interesting, especially Fairfield because Jessie loved her class, and was the professor who inspired Jessie the most. Other characters like Nat (Zac Efron)and Dean (John Magaro) Were fantastically portrayed. We saw a different side of Jessie with Dean as he showed he cares about a teen that is having a rough time like some of us have in College, university I think it gives hope to people watching the film which is a nice emotion to have when watching a film. Nat was a fantastic character, i must say i didn't really care for the actor Zac Efron but Radnor changed my opinion about him as a actor.

Overall i think Liberal Arts was a success for being a small movie. I learn't some things while watching it as well. I hope that Radnor doesn't stop there with his films because they're inspiring films and of course Josh is my favourite actor, Writer and directer, and for one man to take all three roles is nothing short of extraordinary
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
introspective 'lifegasm
wdter10 December 2012
loved this flick even though i had to watch it in two parts because of a modern day attention span (and watched the second half during a lonely bottle of brandy and cherry coke). its an intelligent take on the path of the thirty something 'eff up, that at long last doesn't lurk amongst the reeds of stoner or alcoholic slapstick for safety. there are a string of beautifully subtle moments that happen (as the actual story effortlessly cruises, nay drops down a gear and digs in but makes it look as easy as Terry Thomas playing tennis - thats as English romantic as i get BTW) that are this films true wealth. they start about just before half way but i guess the preamble is necessary and with hindsight wish id stuck with the film on the first attempt of viewing it and got the full on caterpillar experience. Ha i guess i did actually even if i didn't mean too. yeah this film is about how people walk the knife edge of adulthood. some never find a counterbalance and peter pan, while others find are destined in to a cold prematurity before their time. our hero meanwhile plays the everyman of discovery who's guilt is the mortality of the viewers and treats them thus. thank you for a lovely wee flick
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!
Copied to clipboardCopy link
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed