Liberal Arts


Action / Comedy / Drama / Romance


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January 29, 2013 at 12:14 PM



Zac Efron as Nat
Allison Janney as Professor Judith Fairfield
Josh Radnor as Jesse Fisher
720p 1080p
799.48 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 37 min
P/S 2 / 35
1.49 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 37 min
P/S 3 / 16

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chocolate_Swan 8 / 10

Great movie for college students and grads

*This review was previously submitted as an assignment in my film class, which is the reason for its formality and structure.*

"Liberal Arts," written and directed by Josh Radnor, deals with the often-crushing reality of post-college life and the pedestal on which the seemingly idyllic college years are placed. Though the film often runs the risk of becoming an intellectually preachy vanity piece, its genuinely smart writing and relentlessly likable cast elevates it to an honest, enjoyable study of college and its aftermath.

Radnor stars as 35-year-old Jesse, a college recruiter with an unmarketable English/history degree who is nostalgic for his own days at a picturesque Ohio university. When an old professor (Richard Jenkins) invites him back to campus for his retirement dinner, Jesse finds himself drawn to smart, peppy student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), despite his discomfort at the age difference between them. While exploring their latent relationship at his alma mater, Jesse encounters his most influential former professor (Allison Janney), a clinically depressed student (John Magaro), and some realizations about his own aims in life.

Given the subject matter and setting, it's expected that the characters will pride themselves on their intellect and sophistication, and this gives way to some contrived, artsy dialogue, such as a letter montage (never easy to pull off) between Jesse and Zibby in which they wax poetic about classical music, which sounds smart in writing but comes off as unconvincing and pretentious when spoken, accompanied heavy-handedly by poignant New York scenery. However, the witty, laugh-out-loud dialogue usually keeps the film and characters from feeling like they take themselves too seriously, making determinedly highbrow scenes like this clash uncomfortably with the generally self-aware tone.

Radnor writes his character into enough glamorous situations (all the significant female characters sleep with him or try to at some point) and makes him sound over-educated enough that the film could have easily felt like a shameless vanity piece, but he plays Jesse so affably that there's not much room to mind. It's quite believable that his character would attract even young girls, with his naturally youthful looks and self-deprecating charm. Olsen does well with an even more challenging character; Zibby comes dangerously close to the "manic pixie dream girl" archetype of indies, but Olsen plays her with a sweet innocence that never feels fake and, when called on for dramatic moments, she is every bit a real college girl – wounded, vulnerable, and ultimately clueless about where she's going in life. Zac Efron flits in and out as a wisdom-dispensing stoner who may or may not be a figment of Jesse's imagination, offering some of the best laughs in the film.

Arguably the best performances, though, are given by Jenkins and Magaro. Jenkins plays the professor every student wants; like the film itself, he doesn't take himself too seriously but is utterly devoted to the school. He delivers some of the best acting in the film when he pleads for his job back mere days after retiring. Magaro is strangely touching as a college student perhaps closer to the norm than the Zibbies of the world: miserable in school, there solely to please his family, and constantly on the brink of a mental breakdown. In his limited screen time, he creates an oddly heart-winning character despite his sullen demeanor.

"Liberal Arts" is an enjoyable, cleverly written film that should strike a note with college students current and former. The witty writing and earnest cast make its few pretentious missteps easy to brush off affectionately.

Reviewed by Catt Jones ([email protected]) 9 / 10

Liberal Arts - A+

I am going to start out by saying that I loved this film. I think that Josh Radnor did an excellent job writing, directing and starring in this film. The film conveyed that no matter how old you get, you still have more growing to do. The film also demonstrated the hustle and bustle of city life and the calm, serene climate of the country. It also took me back to my years in college and how intense that part of your life really is and the influence that it has on you. There is always one or two instructors that makes an impression on you in college and for Jesse (Josh Radnor) it was Professor Judith Fairfield (Allison Janney) and Professor Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins). Judith was feisty and deliberate and had a no-holds-barred kind of attitude, while Peter was struggling with his decision-making skills. (By the way, my favorite professor was Dr. Spradley who taught me all about technical writing). The relationship that develops between Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) and Jesse is educational in the fact that they both have something to learn from the other. I think that the lessons that they learned maybe even educated the audience a little (I know that is how I felt). The relationship between Jesse and Dean (John Magaro) was a heart-tugging event. Dean kind of reminded me of Will in Good Will Hunting. There are people in this world that are naturally talented in certain things and that is the one thing that they want to do the least. The only character that seemed to have everything pretty much figured out was Nat (Zac Efron). Out of all the characters in this film, I liked him the most. He was quirky, funny and surprisingly insightful. I remember thinking that as strange as he was; I could see myself hanging out with him. Every time he would appear on screen you just knew that he was going to put a smile on your face. I still have a couple of films to see during this film festival, but I have to say that so far this one is my favorite. I hope that when this film comes out to the general public that it does really well. Josh should be very proud of himself for putting together such an engaging piece of work. Pure entertainment! I am giving this film and A+ and a glaring green light.

Reviewed by John DeSando ([email protected]) 5 / 10

A romantic take on the collegiate experience

"And binding with briars my joys and desires." William Blake, from Songs of Experience

Liberal Arts is a small, endearing film about idealism, the reality of life, the complicated nature of aging, and the beauty of experience. The briars play a part, but mostly it's about the romanticism of academia versus the reality of growing old. That's quite a bit for 97 minutes, but writer/director Josh Radnor does an admirable job setting straight the hopes that a superior education like his at Kenyon College can foster.

This lyrical film, like the simple poem that opens this review, makes no grand demands as it juxtaposes the beauty of undergraduate reading and writing with the reality of love not quite mature enough and maturity not ready enough. New York City college admissions counselor Jesse (Josh Radnor) at 35 returns to his college to visit a retiring professor, Peter (Richard Jenkins), and falls for a 19 year old coed, Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen). Radnor's alma mater, Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, is the beautiful location although not identified.

The complications may be obvious given the differences in their ages, but the issues are spot on—and because I lived that plot as a youngish college administrator I congratulate Radnor for neither over-romanticizing nor condemning youthful idealism and the encroachments of "life," described as "happening" after graduation and mitigating the romanticism a college English major fosters. That the pop cult ascendance of the Vampire Trilogy may trump the lofty literature of college does not subvert the notion that everything is good given the right place and time.

The sweetness of the film reaffirms Mr. Radnor as a dreamer of quality, a thinker who confirms life's ambiguities and its promise to those who "say yes" to everything. Again, Blake in Songs of Innocence confirms the efficacy of positive thinking, in this case of feeling the godhead's presence:

He doth give his joy to all;/ He becomes an infant small;/ He becomes a man of woe; / He doth feel the sorrow too.

"It's not Tolstoy, but it's not television, and it makes me happy," Zibby says about reading a vampire trilogy. The same could be said of this simple romance underpinned by Blake's realistic optimism.

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