Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 29th November 2012
Releasing in cinemas across Australia from 13th December 2012
“Liberal Arts” is one of those films that assume the audience is on the same level of intelligence as its film-makers. It is essentially the reason why it worked. While it doesn’t reach the emotional heights of “(500) Days of Summer”, the film succeeds in staying true to its subject and delivers a message that many can relate.
“Liberal Arts” simply works because it attempts to bring its audience back in time. A time when reality is still sheltered and the life actually sucks hasn’t sink in. Perhaps it is precisely why people in the workforce date university students, it allows them to feel and live again. With all being said, Elizabeth Olsen (who achieved critical acclaim in “Martha Marcy May Marlene”) must be one of the most charming character in Hollywood today, as she oozes and shines through the film like a mutual attraction.
Josh Radnor (who also direct and wrote the screenplay) plays the mid thirty something guy who still haven’t accepted adulthood. There is not much that we know about his life or character except for the fact that he genuinely love books. While the attraction between Radnor and Olsen, who plays the acting matured yet native university student, is certainly there, but Radnor constant distant type of acting makes it hard for the audience to relate. However, Olsen is almost perfect in the role as she puts it all out there with her youthful passion and taste of music. Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) stars as former professor provides the film with some genuine emotions in the scene where he hugs Radnor. Being retired from the only thing you can do is never a easy step to endure, think Clint Eastwood in “Trouble with the Curve”. While, Allison Janney (“The Oranges”) shows some good acting chops by being cynical and profound as Radnor’s favourite muse/Professor.
“Liberal Arts” is a film that doesn’t just put it out there, but rather open it up to the audience own interpretation as to why things happen as it did. Accepting adulthood is one thing, growing up in the field of love is entirely another thing. What the film-maker is trying to say is that although the Olsen affair didn’t work out, it happened for a reason. It simply inspired and made Radnor wakes up from his own indulgence of books and face the reality of quite frankly life.
All in all, “Liberal Arts” can be a simple or a complex film depending on how your own personal experiences derail. There are some unnecessary bits, but as a whole the film is extremely well made. It managed to connect to me in some ways and made me thinking about my own situation in the process. I wouldn’t call “Liberal Arts” a great film, but it is definitely a pleasing journey to have endured. (Neo 2012)
I rated it 7.6/10