Movie Review: 'Liberal Arts' -- 2 stars
Written and directed by Josh Radnor
Starring Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Zac Efron
Jesse Fisher, the character played by Josh Radnor in his new movie "Liberal Arts," is the poster child for the commonly held notion that 30 is the new 20.
A mid 30-something admissions officer at a New York college, he is trapped in a state of arrested development, living and acting like an undergraduate. Jesse returns to his Ohio alma mater to celebrate the retirement of one of his favorite professors (Richard Jenkins) and falls for beautiful, whip-smart 19-year-old student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen).
The movie, written and directed by Radnor, is predicated on the notion that Jesse is too immature to accept his strong emotional and intellectual attraction to Zibby, hung up instead on a moral code that says he shouldn't be interested in a 19-year-old. That's a fine conceit, but it's not dramatic enough to sustain the feature, particularly when it's so apparent that Zibby could do much better than the self-loathing Jesse.
In the absence of a compelling hook to keep us watching, we're left with a lot of stilted scenes of Jesse moping around, reliving his college years, spearheading over-intellectualized conversations about literature and the vagaries of life as a liberal arts graduate.
In a few well-written scenes, Jenkins brings more heart and pathos to the movie than Radnor manages as its lead. Jesse is not a likable character in any sense, and more than anything you wish he'd just grow up already.