¨I was English... with a minor in history. Just to make sure I was fully unemployable.¨
Liberal Arts is Josh Radnor´s (How I Met Your Mother) second film as a director following his 2010 film Happythankyoumoreplease in which he also wrote the screenplay and starred in. Josh Radnor is a very funny actor, but in this film he takes a bit more of a dramatic approach. I really prefer him in the funny role, although he didn’t do a bad job here. He was just one of those characters who likes to over think things sometimes and have intellectual dialogues with his friends. He also seems to have that puppy face that makes the viewer want to feel sorry for him. I really didn’t enjoy his character as much as I did Elizabeth Olsen´s. Olsen, who was brilliant in Martha Marcy May Marlene, plays a very likeable character here as a sophomore student in a Liberal Arts college. She seems very intellectual and really played her part perfectly. Liberal Arts is one of those films that depends almost entirely on the screenplay and the chemistry between the actors. It was a sort of nostalgic film with some romantic moments. I thought the film was a bit too talkative and tried a little too hard to make the characters overly intellectual. Some dialogues seemed a bit forced to me, but I won´t complain because I was entertained by Elizabeth Olsen´s performance. This was a very divisive film for critics, some tended to hate it while others enjoyed the intellectual side of it. I on the other hand found it pleasing enough to watch, but not as enjoyable to recommend for all viewers. See this if you are a fan of the actors or enjoy intellectual romantic dramas.
Jesse (Josh Radnor) is a former English student who had high dreams of becoming a romantic poet, but has had to settle for a job in college admissions which he doesn’t really enjoy. He´s in his mid 30´s, and when he receives a call from Prof. Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins), his former English college professor, about visiting his former college for his retirement dinner he decides to go visit his alma matter. Once there, in Ohio, he meets with his Professor with whom he has remained close friends and meets one of the students there named Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen). He immediately feels a connection with her as they discuss several issues which remind him of his college days as a student. He keeps in touch with her through old fashioned letters when he goes back to his hometown. Both begin to feel an emotional connection, but Jesse feels like he is too old for her. After a few months Zibby asks him to visit him again and he does. Once they are together he begins to feel more attracted to her, but at the same time he feels weird because of the age difference. The film moves from here as the two deal with their feelings for each other, while there are some other minor side stories with some secondary characters.
The film works as sort of a psychological study between two very different characters. One is a 35 year old who is unsatisfied with what he has achieved in his life, while the other one is a young student full of hope for the bright future ahead of her. Zibby sees in Jesse that 35 year old intellectual with whom she can have serious conversations about life and opera music, while Jesse is reminded of his young former self when he speaks to her. Both share great chemistry, but you can also feel the tension and weirdness that Jesse feels each time he has to meet with her in public. I really enjoyed the first half of this film, but was a little disappointed with the resolution. I still enjoyed the film in the most part and had a good time. Richard Jenkins is always great in his secondary roles, although here he plays a more serious and depressive role, while Zach Efron has a couple of very funny scenes here as well. The film might be worth a rental for some, but don´t get your hopes up this is an average film after all.