Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts Poster

Josh Radnor wrote, directed and starred in this film where a 35 year old Jesse (Josh) working in New York has a reason to return to his leafy University campus in Ohio and realises he has never really moved on from his Uni days. He returns to see the retirement party of his favourite professor Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins) and the Prof. is clearly not quite ready for that either, whilst at the same time 19 year old student Elizabeth/Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) is feeling more mature than her co-students.

So it’s an exploration on age-appropriateness and that’s a nice subject to be tackling. There are some funny sequences at the start – Jesse leaping on to the grass when he returns to campus and engaging with some of the strange characters.

It’s very quickly quite annoying though. The first annoying conversation comes when Zibby tries to explain one of the exercises she has to do in drama class called ‘the yes game’. I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but it’s something like this:
Zibby: So in the yes game you just have to say yes.
Jesse: Okay, give me a scenario.
Zibby: Okay……. So…… I’m in the desert and gasping for a drink. I ask you for a lemonade. Say yes.
Jesse: Yes.
Zibby: (drinks Jesse’s glass of lemonade)
Jesse: Okay, I’m quite good at this!
Seriously, what was that about? The highly irritating Zibby character starts leaping down the path in a really irritating excited way just after that. It gets progressively more annoying as well. Perhaps it’s funnier or more endearing with an American upbringing, but probably not.

There are some nice observations along the way and a high points includes a discussion on reading a book in a vampire trilogy and a music-induced sequence with passers-by in New York City, but more often than not it just gets annoying or dull again. Zac Efron plays a very hippy character who appears once as a sage-type spirit to help Jesse on his journey, but then he appears later in the film and it’s taken too far. Jesse makes some quite ridiculous decisions when it comes to bedtime and some of the dialogue is wincingly bad.

Jesse: I’ve got this welling up inside me that I can only call a growth.

Eurgh! But the worst has got to be when the tacked-on final relationship throws up this:

Ana: I love books, almost too much. I love trees because they give us books.
Jesse: I know, it’s super cool of the trees to do that isn’t it.

Oh please.

It’s all rather bland and dull.

2 on 5

Info
Director: Josh Radnor
Starring: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney
UK Release: 5th October 2012

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