Thursday, September 27, 2012

Liberal Arts [2012]

MPAA (NR)  Roger Ebert (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMdb listing -
Roger Ebert's review -

Liberal Arts (written / directed by and starring Josh Radner) is a lovely film about college life though it must be said it largely takes the perspective of someone approaching middle age looking back.

At the beginning of the film, we meet Jesse Fisher (played by Josh Radnor) a mid-30 something New Yorker and former liberal arts major who's not exactly "living the dream."   Yes, he does have a job, copy-writing for ad agency or public relations firm.  But he's also getting divorced and that gets him an apartment, yes "still in Manhattan," but one that requires him to go to the laundramat to wash his clothes ...

Sitting in a book store, in a new shirt that he had to buy because someone had run off with his laundry, feeling kinda down, Jesse gets a phone call from Professor Peter Hoberg (played by Richard Jenkins) an old professor friend of his from the "small liberal arts college way out in Ohio" where he had gone to school.  Professor Hoberg was retiring and he needed somebody to say a few nice words ("to lie" ;-) about him and the kindly old Prof thought that "no one could lie better [about him] than Jesse."  So he invites Jesse to come over for his retirement party.  Having nothing better to do Jesse accepts the invite as he jokingly puts it from his "second all time favorite professor." ;-)

A few weeks later, in a rental car (no one in one's right mind, unless one was super-rich would own a car in Manhattan because ... where the heck could you afford to park it?) Jesse arrives at his sweet little alma mater, and ... the experience ... energizes him.  Yes, he knows he no longer belongs there ... but ... he can relate _exactly_ to the 19 year olds that passing all around him. 

Yes, he meets a bright-eyed optimistic student there named Zippy (played by Elizabeth Olsen) who's a daughter of some other friends of the retiring Prof. Hoberg who are also attending the party.  And yes the two initially "hit it off" and much of the film that follows is about "will he or not ..."  But he also meets a couple of other students including the bookish, brooding Dean (played by John Magaro) who may have been "kinda like" but perhaps even more bookish, brooding than Jesse when he was at school, and Nat (played by Zac Efron) who's something of a "stoner" but above all happy and probably very much _unlike_ Jesse when he had been at school.

Much lovely nostalgia (and the putting of nostalgia in its proper place...) ensues.  Among other things, Jesse meets his "all time favorite professor," Romantics Prof. Judith Fairfield (played by Allison Janney) ... and learns a thing or two.

I have to admit that I loved this movie, and as has been the case so often as a result of this blog, I've come to love it all the more as a result of sitting down and writing about it.

YET ... even though I think that Zippy's character was very well drawn and perhaps a lot of young women could learn something from her, I do think the film remains one that takes the perspective of "the alum" over
"the student."   

Still for most of us college is a time in our lives that is 4-5 years (My time was actually much longer more like 15 between college, grad school and back to the seminary...).  But then we have then decades upon decades, the rest of our lives ... to reminisce ;-). 

And you know what?  That can be kinda nice ;-).  Good job Mr Radnor!

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