Liberal Arts

2012

Liberal Arts

Critics Consensus

While it's hard not to wish it had a little more bite, Liberal Arts ultimately succeeds as a good-natured -- and surprisingly clever -- look at the addictive pull of nostalgia for our youth.

71%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 112

60%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,123
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Movie Info

Newly single and uninspired by his job in college admissions, the introverted Jesse Fisher (Josh Radnor) lives with his head buried in a book. His deep nostalgia for his own alma mater in Ohio - the dining halls and dorm rooms, the parties and poetry seminars - makes him wonder if his best days are behind him. So when his favorite professor (Richard Jenkins) invites him back to campus to speak at his retirement dinner, Jesse jumps at the chance. Meeting Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) - a precocious classical music-loving sophomore - awakens in Jesse long-dormant feelings of possibility and connection. -- (C) Official Site

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News & Interviews for Liberal Arts

Critic Reviews for Liberal Arts

All Critics (112) | Top Critics (33) | Fresh (79) | Rotten (33)

  • Poetic justice Is served in insightful LIBERAL ARTS

    Nov 8, 2013 | Full Review…

    Chase Whale

    Film.com
    Top Critic
  • For a film about aging and romanticism, "Liberal Arts" feels like it needs a more mature script.

    Oct 25, 2012 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Liberal Arts maneuvers its story in a philosophical way that is anything but detached. There's a warmth here that reminds audiences why college -- and, dare we say, their core curriculums? -- matter.

    Oct 5, 2012 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • Liberal Arts is fundamentally intelligent and perceptive about a world where everything, or nothing, seems to be equally possible and before life as we know it begins in earnest.

    Oct 5, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • You'd do well to take the film's advice: read a book instead.

    Oct 4, 2012 | Rating: 2/5
  • The script's musings on age, and on whether it is a tyranny, an irrelevance or both, form the subtle spine in a movie with a loose, louche, invertebrate-seeming charm.

    Oct 4, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Liberal Arts

  • Feb 08, 2016
    A surprisingly decent indie film revolving around different-age relationships, career second-guessing, and literature, lots of literature. However I still can't stop seeing that there's so much of Radnor's previous role of Ted Mosby in Jesse Fischer. Aside from Radnor sort of typecasting himself in his own feature film, Liberal Arts is also a medium for Elizabeth Reaser to prove wonderfully that she can actually act and that she wasn't just that vampire stepmother from Twilight.
    Kal X. A Super Reviewer
  • Oct 03, 2015
    Liberal Arts conveys the indie spirit, if not its charm. The acting is fine, but the delivery is a bit off as is the plotting. If you are looking for your typical Hollywood romantic comedy then you should probably give Liberal Arts a pass. If you are a sympathetic fan of indie films then you'll mostly likely find Liberal Arts to be just fine as it is.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 12, 2014
    Like Ted Mosby, Josh Radnor has a lot of thoughts about the pursuit of knowledge, the impetus of young love, and the sanctity of the written word. His dialogue rings like poetry, and his main character reminds us of the wistfulness of Holden Caulfield, the indifference of "The Graduate", and the romanticism of a Pablo Neruda poem. While Radnor wrote and directed very dreamy characters in a realm of stasis that we can all love easily, and grasp at bigger than life issues, there's just something off about this indie darling. We all must have groaned when we learned that the relationship at the crux of the film is between middle aged Radnor and co-ed Zibby (Olsen). While I believe it was handled with delicacy and thoughtfulness, the trope of the older man being quelled by the "manic pixie dream girl" has been done to death. The side story of the former mentor, played by Richard Jenkins, wasn't quite palatable. Jenkins' character serves as an antagonistic benchmark against the rest of the characters, but every time we see him deal with the complexities of remorse it was absolutely boring. The ending did have me swoon, but made me wonder what the point of Jesse's journey was? Was the moral that we shouldn't stay in the past, or possibly was it that we should chase our dreams? Radnor tries to argue for both points and in the end doesn't cover either succinctly. More time on certain relationships and issues would have created a better story.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer
  • Jun 05, 2014
    A very effective drama about whether or not a 35 year old man should be a with a 19 year old girl. Honestly throughout the film they make you think it is okay and then turn it around and make you feel guilty for thinking that, but the chemistry between the two leads is phenomenal. I really really enjoyed my viewing of this film and it gave me a whole new perspective on how some people think and how they are motivated by other things. Overall, I think this is a very powerful film in the way it tries to get it's story across. "Liberal Arts" is one of those independent films that comes around ever couple years, that may not be amazing, but it will leave a warm feeling in your heart by the end. Highly recommended.
    KJ P Super Reviewer

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