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By Jess Fenton
9th December 2012

In 2010, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ star Josh Radnor pulled a Zack Braff and released an indie film written, directed and starring the man himself. While he may not have reached Braff’s appeal or success with ‘Happythankyoumoreplease’, it was a solid effort that delivered quite a beautiful, endearing heart-warmer - if only slightly self-indulgent and the embodiment of “First world problems”.

Fast-forward two years and we’ve arrived at Radnor’s sophomore effort, ‘Liberal Arts’. It would appear that Radnor thought that ‘Happythankyoumoreplease’ was either better or more critically successful than it actually was, because he’s essentially made the same film. Once again, Radnor is the film’s protagonist. This time he goes by the name Jesse Fisher and he’s traded writing for reading, and an 8-year-old foster care child for a 19-year-old college co-ed by the name of Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), as his pet project.


Jesse is a 35-year-old college administrations officer who returns to his alma mater for a professor’s retirement party. He mets Zibby, a student who shares his love and passion for the written word. The two strike up a friendship which turns to romance where the pair must navigate distance, age difference and their own life trajectory to finally come together.

Radnor has put together a supremely talented cast, including Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, Kate Burton, the aforementioned Elizabeth Olsen, along with the shockingly miscast Zac Efron as the free-spirited Nat. While an impressive list of players, the characters they’re portraying are disappointingly unlikable. They're all laced with cynicism, pretension, selfishness and burdened with life’s disappointments. Each character is too quick to blame the world and never themselves for the cards they’ve been dealt and none (despite attempts) accomplish redemption for that betrayal against education, intelligence and ego.

The characters are laced with cynicism, pretension, selfishness and burdened with life’s disappointments.

There’s no question that Radnor is a talented man who treats his audience with respect and the intelligence they deserve - he just needs to... get past himself in order to get to the sincerity he’s trying so desperately to manufacture on screen.

‘Liberal Arts’ is a decent film; it has some nice moments and great performances and it’s a rare look at the effects of passion - and at the end of the day, what do you do with what you know? Tolkien once wrote that “Not all those who wander are lost.” This film is a testament that not all those on a path know where they’re going.

RELEASE DATE: 13/12/2012
RUN TIME: 1h 37m
CAST: Josh Radnor
Elizabeth Olsen
Richard Jenkins
Allison Janney
Elizabeth Reaser
John Magaro
Kate Burton
Robert Desiderio
Zac Efron
Kristen Bush
DIRECTOR: Josh Radnor
PRODUCERS: Brice Dal Farra
Claude Dal Farra
Jesse Hara
Lauren Munsch
Josh Radnor
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