Netflix Challenge | “Liberal Arts”
"Liberal Arts" written and Directed by Josh Radnor.
2012, PG 13, 1h 37min
As a fan of “How I Met Your Mother,” especially Josh Radnor playing Ted in the show, I was happy to find a film that he both wrote and directed on Netflix. This wasn’t one of those movies I would normally pick out at the library or think about buying from Best Buy, but it randomly popped up in my recommendations, and suggested that I might give it 4 stars. I like being challenged, and when I found out that Josh Radnor was in the movie, I took a chance. I notice I’m doing that more and more with the films I watch on here.
Josh stars as Jesse, who works at admissions in New York, and returns to Ohio (much like Ted’s character) to speak about his old college professor (Richard Jenkins), and along the way meets a girl younger than him (Elizabeth Olson) whom he falls in love with. I could tell you the rest of the story, but this is a review not a synopsis. You’ll just have to watch the movie yourself. Wink.
Like I said, as a fan of HIMYM, it was nice to see Jesse as a character who enjoys classical music, poetry and romantic literature without being interrupted by a farting sound. His character is quiet, and shy about being in with a younger crowd back at his own college, but makes new friends in strange ways, like with Dean (John Magaro), a student who underwent a mental breakdown, but now takes pills, or Nat (Zac Efron) a kind of stoner character that just seems more into nature for it’s life itself, and reveals that he doesn’t actually do drugs. Most of the comedy just comes from Jesse being so awkward around this guy whilst he does things like pretend to play bongos on his head, or explaining the way a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
Parts of the movie go into talking about culture in general, like the way you look at the world while listening to classical or operatic music, or how much more fun it is to write letters by hand. One whole sequence of the film is Jesse talking about why Vampire novels are “the worst thing ever written in English” and suddenly, I was enthralled with a movie. It must be great to be able to write and direct a film that has such great interpretations of your own mind. I’m sure Quentin Tarantino has a great time doing that with films like “Kill Bill.” For saying how Vampire books are terrible, I must give props to Josh Radnor for saying exactly what I’m thinking, but across the medium of film.
This is one of the movies I can watch and take a look back at my life, and how I see the world. It’s much more than just finishing and moving on with my life, telling people how I liked it. It opens up a part of my brain where I connect with the characters, and see how my life is to theirs, and what can I do to change things, or maybe make them better.
The ending of the film hold a strange wrap up of the story. Our hero and heroine are at different places than most films end, but at the same time, they both find exactly what they needed to make them happy, and you have to find respect for a film that ends differently than most, not playing into the stereotypes of a “perfect ending.” Not to say that the ending isn’t perfect, but it just feels like something I haven’t seen.
In all, the movie was great. Netflix was right in saying that I’d give it about 4 stars. It fulfilled all the things I wanted in the film, but having the feeling that there was something missing. Maybe it’s the feeling that over the next few days I’ll go back and think about the movie, and realize just what was missing, and that 5th star will slowly reveal itself.
"Liberal Arts" ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆