JOSH RADNOR ELIZABETH OLSEN RICHARD JENKINS ALLISON JANNEY ZAC EFRON KATE BURTON
Josh Radnor’s Liberal Arts would be a nice companion piece to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Both films are delivered by younger men, but one is about the growing up and Liberal Arts is more focused on the growing older and looking back. Radnor wrote, directed and stars in the film that is surprisingly heartfelt and often takes unexpected turns in the script. I couldn’t help but remember Zach Braff's Garden State, but the humor here is far more subtle and appropriate. All of the supporting performances really accent Radnor and his film that should provide most post college students with nostalgia.
Jesse Fisher (Radnor) now works as an admissions counselor in New York but can’t stop thinking about his days in Ohio at his liberal college. His second favorite teacher, Professor Peter Hoberg (Jenkins) has decided to retire after 37 years and has invited Jesse back up for the ceremony. Waiting for any excuse to visit the place where he was the happiest, Jesse drives up and is introduced to a friend of Peter’s and their daughter Zibby (Olsen), who is a 19 year old freshman at the college. Zibby is instantly taken with Jesse’s upbeat nature, his awkward maturity and love for books and knowledge. Jesse, extremely flattered, cannot stop going over the number of years between them.
I wish I could look back on my college experience with such fondness as Jesse does; however, what’s great about this script is that it presents other characters that do not share Jesse’s enthusiasm. Liberal Arts, in its own way, is about maturity at many different levels. Each character has something to offer; for instance, Efron plays someone who is impossibly positive about everything while Janney’s character destroys Jesse’s idea of romanticism. Olsen (Martha, Marcy, May Marlene) is pretty annoying at first and I still can’t get over how much she carries herself like Angelina Jolie. However, as usual her charm shows through and she really plays this character the way it should be played.
I really enjoyed the argument Jesse and Zibby have over the Twilight books. Zibby calls him a snob for proclaiming them the worst books ever written. “Just because millions of people love them doesn’t make it good. It’s about taste.” There is also a really beautiful piece about how a soundtrack to our everyday life can make things much more rich and enjoyable. Jesse says listening to classical music while walking down a busy street in New York made him notice and enjoy what his eyes were seeing much more than having to hear the hustle, street noise and distractions.
Final Thought - Radnor has some pretty unique and admirable things in this script that really took me by surprise.
By: Dustin Chase