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April 8, 2013 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Film Review – Liberal Arts

Directed by Josh Radnor

I was really looking forward to Liberal Arts, Josh Radnor’s second directorial feature, after a glowing round of reviews that promised a clever indie rom-com that would make me lust after my own oedipal trajectory for more than four seconds. Unfortunately, it’s just a Garden State for the Peter Pan generation—that is to say, a fun, but mechanical and transparent coming-of-age film.

Radnor is one of those irritating people that doesn’t really understand the concept of collaboration in the arts, and so directed, wrote and starred as Jesse in this piece focussing on a thirty-something intellectual who hides his infantile emotional age in dust jackets. After visiting an old university professor, Jesse meets 19-year-old Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen). The two spark up a relationship based on handwriting and Mozart, shaking Jesse out of his office monotony and back to the intellectual wonderland that is university—and here we reach the high point of the film. olsen lends Zibby a depth and honesty and magic that almost belies her role, leading to a desire on my part to see her in every movie from now on.

So far, so good—until about halfway through the film when you realise that this is really not as self-aware as you thought it might turn out
to be, and that’s when it starts getting a bit trite and ridiculous. In stripping Jesse of his self-involvement and intellectual snobbery on-screen, Radnor is presumably trying to debunk the myth of the sensitive modern man-boy. However, when every character in every scene of the last half-hour only exists to teach Jesse a lesson, liberal arts becomes even more self-indulgent than its protagonist.

Verdict: 2/5

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