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Liberal Arts 2012


Josh Radnor & Elizabeth Olsen in a comic coming-of-age story about an unlikely romance.

Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen
1 hour, 37 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Comedy
Director Josh Radnor
Starring Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen
Supporting actors Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, Elizabeth Reaser, John Magaro, Kate Burton, Robert Desiderio, Zac Efron, Kristen Bush, Ali Ahn, Ned Daunis, Gregg Edelman, Chelsea Chrostowski, Ned Daunis, Richard Doone, Caroline Lindy, Travis Alan McAfee, Andrea R. Perry, Benjamin Viccellio
Studio IFC Films
MPAA rating Unrated (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
With so many heartbreaking films in the cinema today, it is refreshing to encounter and engage with Josh Radnor's Liberal Arts, a heart mending film. A film that dares to say that things aren't that bad, in a time when cynicism runs rampant through the streets. And I don't know about you, but I could use a healthy dose of optimism in the movies I watch. Josh Radnor grabs cynicism by the shoulder and gently leads him out of the movie theater, while calmly embracing compassion, awareness, and unabashed optimism. Josh Radnor may just be the soul that saves all of our weary souls. Josh's innate ability to create and inspire is one of the most over-looked talents today. How is this guy not on the front page of the newspaper every day? If you haven't seen Liberal Arts, then you need to get on that. It is by no means a run of the mill romantic comedy with cliched dialogue and unrealistic dramatic debacles. It is a beautiful symphony of impeccable directorial finesse, precise subtle nuanced acting, and a wonderfully aware script with resonant quotes that stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

Josh's clear vision for Liberal Arts really paid off. The beautiful cadence with which each actor speaks is unmatched by any other movie(not that it's a competition, but it's totally a competition, and Liberal Arts wins, by a landslide, a very peaceful landslide that has no casualties, just bruised egos perhaps). With these unique, intriguing characters, it's no wonder there is never a dull moment in this movie. Jesse Fisher(Josh Radnor), is a 35-year old college admissions counselor, who is less than enthused about his career, and returns to his alma mater, Kenyon College, for one of his favorite professor's retirement dinners.
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Format: Blu-ray
It's fair to say that I wasn't a huge fan of Josh Radnor's first film as a writer/director "Happythankyoumoreplease." While the movie had promise and some strong points, it veered a little too far into preciousness and quirk for my taste. I might have been in the minority, though, as the film scored an Audience Award at Sundance. But for me, many of its plot digressions seemed a little too contrived to be taken seriously. In his second effort, "Liberal Arts," I find myself having a similar reaction. Overall, though, the movie works much more cohesively. It strikes some irresistibly bittersweet moments and features some winning performances. But every time Radnor scores with a heartfelt, affectionate, or funny scene, he counters with something too convenient or unbelievable to follow it up. Simply put, "Liberal Arts" is a good movie (sometimes very good) that struggles to find a consistent tone. Radnor has talent as both a writer and director, sometimes he just needs to rein in the artificiality that comes with excessive quirk.

"Liberal Arts" relies on a middle-aged nostalgia for one's college days. As a central theme, it is one that strikes a real emotional chord and is something that many of us can easily identify with. Radnor plays a New York City resident who is invited to his small town alma mater to honor a favorite professor (Richard Jenkins). The two men share an easy bond and their scenes together have a quiet poignancy and effectiveness. While there, Radnor becomes entangled with a feisty co-ed (Elizabeth Olsen) despite their sixteen year age difference. There are some fresh comic moments throughout. I especially liked an uncredited Zac Effron as an ethereal life force that connects rather fancifully with Radnor. But there are also moments of deep sadness.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I tried to like this. No, really. I wanted to like it so, so badly. Josh Radnor is a really talented guy, and Roger Ebert gave "Liberal Arts" a good review.

Yeah. Well. The movie wasn't completely hideous. It had its good points. There just weren't enough to make it all worth it. First of all, I absolutely get Jesse's desire to go down Memory Lane and reconnect with what made life exciting. We've all done that at one point (or several). However, Jesse makes some bizarre choices along the way. As a writer, I understand that characters don't always do what they're supposed to, but some actions are so out of left-field that the audience can't help but get weirded out. The weirdest moment for me in "Liberal Arts" was seeing Jesse turn down sex with a nineteen-year old, but then jump in bed with his former lit professor. This is a slightly disturbing chain of events as it is, but what made it jump the shark was Jesse's own incredulous expression when Professor What's-Her-Name is seducing him. How does he go from that to watching her light a post-coital cigarette from the other side of her bed?

Again, I get where Radnor was coming from here, but the overall product was disappointing. Just a little bit of tweaking would have made this film a winner. But, hindsight, right? I still like Josh Radnor, and I'm looking forward to seeing whatever he's got ahead of him.
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Format: DVD
Now THIS is one to watch for! It is witty, intelligent, well-acted, adult, textured and beautifully acted, with a gorgeous soundtrack. Our 2012 Seattle International Film Festival audience could scarcely contain ourselves as we exited the theater. We had watched decent people trying to cope with the vagaries of growing up, each at his or her own pace, each with his or her own degree of success.

Let's look at some of these nice people:
* Josh Radnor ("How I Met Your Mother") is Jesse, an Admissions officer for a New York City school, called to give a speech for a former professor who is retiring at his old alma mater. He is a bookworm who says a dual English/History degree should make a graduate fully unemployable. He meets a couple of undergrads while visiting his old campus.
* Elizabeth Olsen ("Martha Marcy May Marlene") is Zibby, a young woman wise for her years but who views a relationship with our hero as a possible short-cut to maturity. She gives him a mix-tape filled with works by dead white males, i.e., European composers Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi and Shubert. That is his FIRST surprise from her! She is smart, decent and has great insight. And she LOVES "snail mail."
* John Magaro ("My Soul to Take") is Dean, the other student our hero meets on campus. This guy hates hyperbole and is terminally depressed! He keeps re-reading a book written by an author who killed himself. He's attending college because he got a "full ride" scholarship and his single mom is "soooo proud!"
* Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") is Peter Hoberg, the professor trying to make the difficult transition to retirement.
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