Friday, September 14, 2012

Movie Review: "Liberal Arts"

Liberal Arts is the second feature film written and directed by How I Met Your Mother star, Josh Radnor, further proving he has a great cinematic eye, an unparalleled knack for writing great dialogue, and an amazing directorial ability.

The film follows Radnor portraying thirty-five-year-old college admissions officer Jesse, a romantic who misses the romantic days of college back in Ohio.  When Jesse is asked to return to his alma mater to speak about his favorite professor, now retiring, Jesse meets nineteen-year-old college student, Zibby, played brilliantly by Elizabeth Olsen, who he quickly falls for.

Thematically, Liberal Arts is such a strong film.  One of the things that makes it so strong is it requires genuine thinking upon seeing it.  You ask yourself, "What was the purpose of this scene, or this character?"  And when you start to fill everything out, you realize how beautifully orchestrated Radnor's script is.  Almost every single scene, every single character plays towards the concept of romanticism, and whether or not it's a naive pursuit, or how romantic ideas can come crashing down around you, as they do for Jesse once he realizes how vastly different Zibby truly is from him.  From Zac Efron's modern day hippy, Nat, who just hangs around the campus, spouting off romantic ideas, to Zibby's old-fashioned love of classical music and hand-written letters, each character works toward the central theme of the film.  On top of all that, the film is quite funny, with most of the humor portrayed realistically rather than in a sitcom-like fashion.  What makes the moments funny though, isn't the actors hamming them up, but it's Radnor's script and his smart characters, making sarcastic and realistic comments like normal people would in everyday life.

To say that I loved this film would be an understatement, I feel it is one of the best written films to come along in a while, and I feel that Radnor shows himself as an Indie director with promise, especially in the montage scenes where Jesse and Zibby are communicating through hand-written letters and listening to classical music.  Radnor shows so much confidence in the camera movements, and in the way that he directs the viewer's attention, often showing up many directors who have more experience than he does.

Liberal Arts is just a magnificent film that is worth seeing.  The acting performances are all super strong, in particular a scene stealing performance from Richard Jenkins as Jesse's old college professor, who realizes the romantic idea of retirement isn't what he thought it would be.  This is just one of those films that will stick in your memory for a while upon seeing it.

I give Liberal Arts an A

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