A freelance writer and editor living in Melbourne, I'm an avid fan of film, television and literature.
Published August 27th 2012
Josh Radnor sure had his hands full with Liberal Arts. The How I Met Your Mother star wrote, directed and starred in the film. The good news is that the film – not quite a romantic comedy, not quite an indie drama, but a mixture of both – is genuinely funny and touching.
Radnor plays Jesse, a thirty-five year old working as a university admissions officer in New York. Bored by his job, recently left by his girlfriend and absorbed in books, Jesse readily accepts an offer from his old professor (Richard Jenkins, The Cabin in the Woods) to attend his retirement party at his old university. While in Ohio, Jesse meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene), a nineteen- year old theatre student. The two are instantly attracted to each other, despite Jesse's better judgement, and strike up a friendship while flirting with the idea of a romantic relationship.
Liberal Arts looks like a hipster indie comedy, but it is surprising sentimental and has mainstream appeal. Radnor has assembled an excellent cast; indie darling Olsen and Richard Jenkins are joined by Allison Janney, Elizabeth Reaser and Zac Efron. The scenes with Allison Janney, as Jesse's favourite college professor, and Zac Efron, who is surprisingly amusing playing against his pretty-boy image, are particularly entertaining.
Liberal Arts is by no means perfect – some of the plot points, including Jesse's friendship with a depressed college student seem a bit too contrived and too convenient. Despite this, the film is really funny in an understated way; it effectively uses humour to explore the gap between Gen-X and Gen-Y, and the gap between popular culture and high art.
Liberal Arts will be screening in Australia from 11 October 2012.