I’ll admit it. I have daddy issues. Older men ring my bells front, back, and side-to-side. Liberal Arts appealed to the slightly deviant side of me that enjoys the alluring temptation and reckless abandon of chasing the forbidden. I bought this movie sight unseen on the strength of its premise and lead actor. I had high hopes going into this Indie flick.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFmuO6xJ36g?feature=player_detailpage]
It went a little like that.
Liberal Arts is written and directed by Josh Radnor aka Ted Mosby (“How I Met Your Mother”). It’s Radnor’s sophomore effort as the triple threat of writer, director, and lead actor following his debut of happythankyoumoreplease. The film centers on Jesse, a 35-year-old college admissions rep, who goes back to his college alma mater for a weekend event honoring an old professor. While there, he meets Zibby, a 19-year-old ingénue. Liberal Arts chronicles their story and the complexities of finding yourself, no matter what age you happen to be. In a nutshell: There’s a man, a girl, “deathless” prose, and mind-numbing amounts of narration.
It’s a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme, it’s Beauty and the Perv. At its zenith, Liberal Arts calls to mind wistful nostalgia of collegiate days gone by. The breathtaking, headlong rush into adulthood is, at moments, highlighted uncomfortably well. One of the best things I can say about this movie is that it evoked an almost visceral sense of realism. Rarely was any of Liberal Arts warm and fuzzy. But the beauty of this train wreck was that real life is often fucked up, unfair, and (sometimes) incredibly creepy. If that was Radnor’s intent… Nailed it!
Ah, mediocrity, sweet mistress of many a movie. Liberal Arts basks in your not-so-radiant glow. Seriously. Prepare to be “whelmed”. This movie calls to mind a quote from a far better movie (10 Things I Hate About You): “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” I think you can in Liberal Arts. This film was frustrating to the point of partial facial paralysis. The movie started off on an even keel and then… Stayed there. Even the highest highs and lowest lows didn’t elicit anything more than a quirked eyebrow. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It just…was.
Part of what took Liberal Arts from ‘good’ to ‘okay’ was that every time somebody opened their mouth, pretentious bullshit fell out (ironically enough illustrating the very point the characters were prattling on about in the film). Earnestness wafted off of them like the stink of too much cologne and I practically choked on ageless wisdom. I get that Liberal Arts was shooting for ‘intellectual’, but all I got was ‘desperate’.
There was a lot of miscellaneous bullshit that dragged Liberal Arts down. For one, there were characters in the movie that either had no business being there (bitter retired professor) or only appeared to further the plot in insultingly obvious ways (hippie spirit guide). Next, this movie was a massive cockblock. Both literally and figuratively. Anytime I thought “Finally, some shit’s about to go down!”, I was massively disapointed. If I wanted to get this worked up with no possibility of “release”, I’d buy a goddamn lap dance. Lastly, Josh Radnor’s beard deserves mention for turning an attractive, clean-cut guy into “future Unibomber and likely child molester”. I could hardly concentrate on anything other than that monstrosity whenever Jesse was onscreen. Nothing says “I give up on life” quite like a half-assed hobo beard.
Now THIS is mother-fucking facial hair.
Liberal Arts taught me that books will turn you into a social leper and rejected outcast. Thank god I can’t read or write. I get monkeys to type these reviews. They also watch the movies and think up funny shit to say. You’d get more from watching The Last Kiss (2006) than this movie. Essentially the same plot, but better. You’re welcome in advance.
Take a Drink: whenever Jesse or Zibby narrate a letter.
Take a Drink: any time you roll your eyes or say “seriously?!?”.
Take a Drink: every time Jesse creeper-stares at Zibby.
Do a Shot: any time you hear Jesse say “2nd best teacher I had” or “I loved your class”.
Shotgun a Beer: if at any point you think “This is the longest episode of ‘To Catch a Predator’ ever.