Liberal Arts (film)
Poster for Liberal Arts
|Directed by||Josh Radnor|
|Produced by||Brice Dal Farra
Claude Dal Farra
|Screenplay by||Josh Radnor|
|Music by||Ben Toth|
|Edited by||Michael R. Miller|
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
|Box office||$1.1 million|
Liberal Arts is an American comedy-drama film. The second film directed by, written by, and starring Josh Radnor, it tells the story of 35-year-old Jesse (Radnor) who has a romantic relationship with Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a 19-year-old college student. The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in January 2012.
Jesse Fischer (Radnor) is a 35-year-old college admissions officer in New York City who loves literature and language, but is newly single and dissatisfied with his life and career. He believes that the happiest time of his life was the years at his unnamed Ohio liberal arts college, where he could study poetry uninterrupted, surrounded by others like him. Peter Holberg (Jenkins), his old English professor, invites Jesse back to the college to attend Peter's retirement ceremony. Jesse meets 19-year-old Zibby (Olsen), a sophomore studying drama and the daughter of Peter's friends.
After the retirement dinner, Jesse stumbles upon a dorm party where he runs into Zibby. They agree to have coffee together the next day. He spends the afternoon with Zibby, and they walk around the campus discussing life, books, and music. He also encounters his old romantics teacher, Judith Fairfield (Janney)—a woman he has long admired—and meets Dean (Magaro), a brilliant but depressed student who, like Jesse, always carries a book with him. Before Jesse leaves, Zibby asks to stay in touch; they become pen pals, and become closer via handwritten letters.
Zibby invites Jesse back to campus for a romantic encounter. Jesse has concerns about the 16-year age gap but agrees. They are caught by Peter, however, who warns Jesse about not living in the past and growing up. Zibby asks Jesse to sleep with her; Jesse agrees, but after she admits it would be her first time he declines and leaves. The angry and disappointed Zibby goes to a party and starts kissing a classmate. Jesse runs into Fairfield and has a one-night stand with Judith, but her bitter, cynical attitude toward life disillusions him.
Jesse returns to New York where he meets and starts dating Ana (Reaser), a bookseller with a similar love for books (and who, as Jesse notes, is "age-appropriate"). After Jesse helps avert Dean's suicide by overdose, he advises the young man to stop hiding from life within books. Jesse apologizes to Zibby, who says that she hoped to take a shortcut to adulthood through a relationship with Jesse, and that she understands that what he did was the right thing. The film ends with Jesse seemingly happy with the idea of growing old with Ana.
- Josh Radnor as Jesse Fisher
- Elizabeth Olsen as Zibby
- Richard Jenkins as Professor Peter Hoberg
- Allison Janney as Professor Judith Fairfield
- John Magaro as Dean
- Elizabeth Reaser as Ana
- Kate Burton as Susan
- Robert Desiderio as David
- Zac Efron as Nat
- Gregg Edelman as Robert
Liberal Arts received generally positive reviews and has a rating of 70% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 104 reviews with an average score of 6.6 out of 10. The consensus states: "While it's hard not to wish it had a little more bite, Liberal Arts ultimately succeeds as a good-natured -- and surprisingly clever -- look at the addictive pull of nostalgia for our youth." The film also has a score of 55 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 24 reviews, indicating "Mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 and a half out of 4 stars and stated in his review "Liberal Arts is an almost unreasonable pleasure about a jaded New Yorker who returns to his alma mater in Ohio and finds that his heart would like to stay there. It's the kind of film that appeals powerfully to me; to others, maybe not so much. There is a part of me that will forever want to be walking under autumn leaves, carrying a briefcase containing the works of Shakespeare and Yeats and a portable chess set. I will pass an old tree under which once on a summer night I lay on the grass with a fragrant young woman and we quoted e.e. cummings back and forth. There is a word to explain why this particular film so appealed to me. Reader, that word is "escapism." If you understand why I used the word "reader" in just that way, you are possibly an ideal viewer for this movie."
- Liberal Arts at Box Office Mojo
- "Liberal Arts (2012)". Box Office Mojo. 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
- "Liberal Arts". Boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
- "Film's plot". Firstshowing.net. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
- "2012 Sundance Film Festival". Filmguide.sundance.org. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
- According to Radnor, the book Dean carries is David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.
- "Liberal Arts (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
- "Liberal Arts Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
- Tallerico, Brian. "Liberal Arts Movie Review & Film Summary (2012)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2015-09-20.