Frequently, the best movies in town aren’t the ones with the big marketing budgets showing on a lot of screens at many theaters. Often, they are small films, sometimes only on one screen. That’s the case with “Liberal Arts.” The motion picture has opened on a single screen at Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Theater, but I have a feeling it may be on more screens soon.
“Liberal Arts” is a project written and directed by its star, Josh Radnor, best known for his role in “How I Met Your Mother.” Radnor plays a 35-year-old recruiter for a college in New York City. He’s bored with his work. He just got jilted by his live-in girl friend. The only “love” in his life that seems dependable is his love for books.
When he is invited to come back for a weekend at his alma mater in Ohio, to attend a retirement party for a favorite college professor, played by the fine actor Richard Jenkins, the timing seems perfect. Radnor rents a car and revels in the atmosphere of his past college days when he arrives.
While there, he meets a perky, intelligent and pretty 19-year-old sophomore nicknamed Zibby, played by Elisabeth Olsen, and immediately Radnor’s character has a dilemma. She’s obviously interested in him romantically, and he is caught up in the atmosphere of his younger days, but he doesn’t know whether to consider her as a friend, or something more. There is a sixteen year difference in their ages, and he’s a man with a conscious.
“Liberal Arts” is a terrifically engaging and enjoyable movie. It’s insightful and has great personal validity and appeal. You hate to call any film “charming,” but this movie is. It’s a multi-layered story about people, choices, love, life and career. It has great humor and some surprises & unpredictability. It’s the type of movie that wins an audience with the honesty and the appeal of the people whose stories are being told.