Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Liberal Arts

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Elizabeth Olsen and Josh Radnor have an odd college romance in Liberal Arts. Photo / Supplied
Elizabeth Olsen and Josh Radnor have an odd college romance in Liberal Arts. Photo / Supplied

Liberal Arts is a romantic comedy that should put a smile on your face. Charming and smartly written, its feelgood factor comes from how things pan out for the lead characters, no spoiler there, and because it has a little more to say about life and growing up than the average rom-com.

Josh Radnor, familiar from his role in How I Met Your Mother, is the writer, director and star here in his second film after happythankyoumoreplease, which also focused on characters trying to grow up. Although in the case of Liberal Arts it's a problem being faced by characters across generations.

Radnor plays Jesse, a nice single guy in his mid-thirties who loves literature, over-thinks most things, and hasn't found his place in the world since leaving college.

When Jesse returns to college to pay tribute to Professor Hoberg, "his second favourite professor", played by Richard Jenkins, he meets and falls for Zibby, a smart young undergrad played by Elizabeth Olsen - the Olsen twins' younger sister.

There's an obvious attraction, but Jesse's attempt to have a relationship with a young college girl and relive his college days provides the jumpstart he needs to start acting his age and get on with his life.

Liberal Arts is a romantic film, but beyond Jesse and Zibby's courtship Radnor also gets into teacher-student-mentor relationships, the importance of liberal arts in curriculums, and how we deal with ageing. Jenkins in particular nails his role as a retiring professor unsure how to approach the next phase in his life.

Though not a laugh-out loud comedy, there are some clever scenes, including Jesse reading and then dissecting The Twilight Saga (made more amusing by his friend, Twilight actress Elizabeth Reaser appearing in this film), and a rather unromantic sexual liaison with his old Romantic Poets lecturer, played by the wonderfully abrasive Allison Janney.

Romantic comedies don't set out to change your life, but Liberal Arts does provide an easy and enjoyable study on growing up and finding contentment, whatever your age.

Stars: 4/5
Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen
Director: Josh Radnor
Running Time: 97 mins
Rating: M (Adult Themes)
Verdict: A charming, smart romantic comedy.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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