Liberal Arts ***1/2

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“Liberal Arts” to me was about a few very unique performances. The movie was written and directed by Josh Radnor who plays Ted on the popular TV show “How I Met Your Mother”. Here he directs himself as a man who is in his mid 30’s with no direction in his life.

When he gets the call to speak at one of his favorite college professors retirement ceremonies he jumps at the opportunity. He loved his days in college and can’t wait to get back to the campus. It is here that me meets 19 year old student named Zibby. She is years ahead of her time mentally and longs for an intellectual equal. They immediately strike up a friendship that turns in to pen pals.

Eventually they start to fall for each other through written letters. Radnor has some reservations as he is 16 years her senior. He makes a trip back to campus to see her. At first everything is great. But complications set it when they get close.

Radnor as I mentioned stars in a TV series. Here he shows a side of himself that I was not aware existed. His character, named Jesse, has grown disillusioned in his life. Whenever he has interactions with anyone he seems reserved and closed off. The professor he is visiting is played by Richard Jenkins who turns in one of his usual self kidding kind of performances.

Another supporting role is played by Allison Janney who plays another of his favorite teachers from college. Amazingly she is not as he remembers her. She is more closed off then he is but very focused on serving her other needs. They have a scene that starts in a bar and ends in a way that I did not anticipate.

Movies like this are hard to come by. The story is completely driven by the personalities of the characters. The last third of the movie is a series of interactions that will define these people for the rest of their lives.

“Liberal Arts” is the second movie by Josh Radnor. He has not yet found an audience for his movies which is a shame. After “How I Met Your Mother” ends I think he does have a great career in the movies ahead of him. He has a great sense of dialogue and performance.

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