Josh Radnor’s (CBS’ How I Met Your Mother) directorial and writing debut is a story of personal growth and acceptance. It is for all intents and purposes a coming-of-age story for today’s thirty something generation. What audiences are presented within this movie is the story of a man who is in denial about getting older. The man in question is Jesse Fisher (Josh Radnor). Jesse is in denial about his aging until a series of occurrences leads him to begin seeing the light and sets him on his path of self-realization. That path is started when he attends the retirement party of a former professor at his old university. It’s his visit to his alma mater that leads him to meet a group of current students–including one 19-year old named Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen)–with whom he starts a friendship that becomes a semi-romantic relationship. It’s his interactions with her that help set off a chain of events which eventually make Jesse realize some difficult truths.
As intriguing as the discussion is in Liberal Arts, the discussion makes the movie come across as a movie that’s not exactly for everybody. Its biggest problem is its pacing. Because of the manner in which the discussion takes place, the story ends up moving rather slowly. To add to it, the manner in which the entire discussion is presented makes it come across as being too ambitious. It may alienate some viewers. It’s not to say that the discussion on getting older and accepting it is a bad idea for the basis of a movie. Quite the opposite. Rather, the problem with this discussion is its placement. Had this discussion on acceptance of getting older been placed within the confines of another story, it might have translated better to mainstream audiences.
Don’t be mistaken. Liberal Arts is not a terrible movie by any means. It is simply a niche film that unlike other recent releases from IFC Films, will appeal more to a smaller, more specific set of viewers. But then again, it may not have been intended for all audiences to begin with. That being the case, those who enjoy this movie will know that they are the specifically intended audiences, while others will know the opposite. Regardless, because of its discussion on acceptance of aging, it’s a story that is original and is worth at least one watch.
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