Saturday, January 26, 2013

Liberal Arts Movie Review - A fresh, light hearted and intelligent drama/comedy

In Liberal Arts, an enthusiastic and verbose 35 year old revisits his alma mater for a professor's retirement party and meets a very attractive girl in the process. The problem is, she is 16 years younger than him.

Liberal Arts is one of those movies that is directed, written and starred in by one particular and important person. In Liberal Arts, that person is Josh Radnor. In most cases, movies which feature a person handling three different and important roles often fall flat in either of the three aspects of the film however in Liberal Arts, all three aspects where delivered incredibly well which makes for a very lighthearted, intelligent and at the same time meaningful drama/comedy.

Radnor plays Jesse Fisher who often talks about the greatness of college when opportunites were abundant and when the world was your oyster. When he is invited to go back to his alma mater by an old professor, he instantly accepts without hesitation at all. This is where the story begins and it is in this college where most of the plot takes place. This is a story about contentment and the fulfillment of dreams and the harsh but apparent reality of going from a contained academic environment to the chaotic or in some instances unsatisfying life after college.

Josh Radnao revisits his college days in his latest acting and directorial effort

I really liked the topic the movie tried to tackle. Radnor seemingly wants the viewers to reminisce on their days back in college or in school in general and evaluate how much we've changed from our idealistic and naive selves in the past to the kind of people who hold on to our almost passive and realist world views today. Radnor then takes that concept and injects it with intelligent and charming writing by infusing the script with literary references and artsy characterizations of day to day things. This gives the movie a unique style and energy not found in other films of the same genre. However, some parts seemed really bizzare like the character of Zac Efron which I am aware was simply used as a device for Jesse Fisher to sort of reach a moment of transcendence to ultimately round out his character. Another sequence that took me out of the film and which I kind of perceived as really jarring and annoying was the argument over Twilight. At that point, the movie sounded almost overbearingly preachy as Radnor through his character Fisher shares his views about society.

As for the relationships I felt that Fisher and Elizabeth (played by Elizabeth Olsen) didn't connect as much as I wanted them to. But given the circumstances that may have been what Radnor wanted. Individually though, they gave good performances. Side characters like Peter Hoberg (played by Richard Jenkins) and Judith Fairfield (Allison Janney) added another layer to the narrative and sort of gave the themes of the movie a more central and universal importance. Radnor showed throughout the movie through these characters that transformations, whether good or bad, can happen to any of us.

Though they didn't connect as much as I wanted Olsen and Radnor had some great giggle inducing scenes

As for the directing, there wasn't any particular directing style used. It was very simple and straightforward. It could have gone for more risky cinematography but its contained and laidback presentation also added to the overal relaxing ambiance of the film.

Overall, Liberal Arts is a simple and enjoyable drama/comedy that is both literate and moving and will leave you with a lot of thoughts to ponder on about contentment as well as discontentment, the frustrations of moving from one landscape of life to another, the vulnerability induced by uncertainness of the future as well as the pressures of the present and the consequentiality of life itself. Riveting stuff.


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