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Liberal Arts
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Reviewed on 2012-10-20
Received[2.5]  out of 4 stars
GenreComedy / Drama
Writer-director Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother”) takes a nostalgic trip down memory lane to his carefree college day when everything in life seemed possible. This romantic comedy was filmed mostly at Radnor’s alma mater Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school in Gambier, Ohio.

Radnor stars as Jesse Fisher, a 35-year-old working in New York City as a college admissions officer. He receives a call from Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins from “The Visitor” and HBOs “Six Feet Under”), one of his favorite undergraduate professors, inviting him to attend a retirement dinner. He accepts and returns to his beloved alma mater.

Jesse is introduced to Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen from “Martha Marcy May Marlene”), a 19-year-old sophomore, who is studying improv theater and majoring in drama. They have a long conversation while strolling around campus. A powerful connection springs up between them. She gives him a CD of her favorite classical music selections and asks him to write her a letter. They become romantic pen pals.

Jesse struggles with their 16-year age difference. He works the math out on paper. However, when Zibby asks him to be her very own gentleman caller, he makes a return visit.

The supporting cast also includes Allison Janney (“The West Wing”), Elizabeth Reaser (“Young Adult” and “The Twilight Saga”) and Zac Efron (“High School Musical” and “Hairspray”).

Radnor has an ear for intellectual dialogue. He also apppears to be an avid reader. He makes an astute observation about the difference between reading about life and actually living it through a variety of experiences. The movie is about growing up, acting your age and accepting the challenges of adulthood.

Radnor embodies his character’s need to embrace his old college haunts and romanticized memories of ivory tower awakenings. His sincerity and sound principles of morality make him an engaging personality. Olsen is adorable and holds up her end as a fresh-faced, precocious coed. Radnor and Olsen are so comfortable together that you sometimes forget the implausibility of their mutual attraction. Janney makes the most of limited screen time. Her scenes with Radnor are a big surprise. Jenkins is a natural bringing depth to the role.

Besides the acting and original screenplay, the classical music score is another favorable component of the crowd-pleasing escapism offered by this film that premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Now playing for a limited engagement exclusively at the Glenwood Arts and the Tivoli in Westport.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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