Liberal Arts

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This movie was written and directed by Josh Radnor, that guy on the TV show How I Met Your Mother. The one we wish would get it over with and just spill the beans about how he met his kids' mother already.

He's also the main character, Jesse, a 35-year-old admissions officer at some college. He's bookishly obsessed with literature and has just been dumped by his girlfriend. He gets an invitation from a beloved old prof (Richard Jenkins) at his alma mater; could Jesse pop out to join him in a retirement ceremony? And so he does. He meets a whole bunch of people: there's 19-year-old Zibby (Elizabeth Olson), who's intellectual and attractive; there's another favorite prof (Allison Janney), who's intellectual, older but still attractive; there's a (probably) substance-abusing goofball, Nat (Zac Efron); and another undergrad bookish kindred spirit, Dean (John Magaro).

All these self-obsessed characters talk. And talk. Too often pretentiously. And the ladies hit on Jesse, one successfully, the other not.

It's billed as a comedy/drama, but the comedy is not the kind that makes one laugh. (I managed a couple of ironic snorts, though.) You will notice some mighty fine actors up there, and they say some witty things. Unfortunately, the movie never answers the important question: why should I care about these people? This is especially important when you're making a flick set in Academe, where everything about the characters is divorced from the Real World, including their navel-gazing problems.

However: one of the subplots involves a kid who's obsessed with David Foster Wallace and his book Infinite Jest. (I don't think they ever say this explicitly, but it's pretty obvious.) Problems ensue, and I thought: this kid needs to lay off DFW for a bit, and read some Lee Child. A few seconds later, Jesse recommends that the kid read some Stephanie Meyer for a change. Heh, close enough. Extra half star for that.


Last Modified 2017-12-02 4:47 AM EST