Liberal Arts is inspiring. It makes you feel like you, too, could make a movie. It makes it look not all that hard. When I watched The Avengers, I was like, “I could never do that. I wouldn’t even know where to start!” But when I watched Liberal Arts, I was like, “I feel like I could pretty much make something comparable on my drive home.”
Not to say it’s not good. It’s pretty good. It’s about a 35-year-old guy (Josh Radnor) who is an admissions counselor in New York. He gets a call from an old favorite professor you know how you’re always getting calls from all your old professors who you keep in touch with, and so Josh goes back to speak at this guy’s retirement dinner and gets a crush on a 19-year-old student (some actress).
I like Josh Radnor. I like him in How I Met Your Mother. Not that I watch it much, but when I do, I like it. I like his banter in that ‘banter that’s written by professional sitcom writers’ way. In part, this film illustrates that Josh Radnor is way better off with professional sitcom writers writing banter for him. He’s maybe not as funny as he thinks he is. Which isn’t his fault. As a rule, attractive, successful people are rarely as funny as they think they are. To be fair, it’s our fault as a culture for laughing every time they attempt humor because we’re so excited that they’re talking to us.
When Josh isn’t being funny-not-funny, he sounds like a textbook. As does everyone to whom he’s speaking. It’s like he wrote a long essay on what life is and what it’s not and what it should be and what it isn’t, and all his beliefs and counter beliefs, then he put it in a script and is having characters read various paragraphs. Like The Vagina Monologues, but slightly more story driven and instead of lady parts, it’s about literature and life and philosophy. It’s, at times, like spoken word, but all acted out.
Not that it’s bad.
It has a lot of great things going for it. It doesn’t take the predictable path of a story about an older guy who likes a younger woman, which is refreshing. There’s a lot of heart in it, which is wonderful. I teared up, in fact, but I won’t tell you where. Allison Janney is it in—big ups. It’s well-acted, also a plus. And Zac Efron has a plumb role where he’s funny and charming. Congratulations to all on that.
Is it a good date movie? Not really. It made me feel old, which is not sexy. And I think if I’d seen it in college, I would have felt too young, or bored, or not really gotten it. I’m sure I would have gone off to get drunk and wonder, “Where’s my Josh Radnor?!” and proceed to make out with any guy who looked mildly like Radnor or, possibly, not at all like him. (None of which is his fault. I was an alcoholic.)
But it’s a good movie. A great Netflix. A really great airplane movie. ‘On demand’ it. As you know, my criterion for a great date movie is ‘whether you want to make out’ after you see it. This film makes you kinda want to retire. Or nap.