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Liberal Arts (2012)



Average Rating: 6.6/10
Reviews Counted: 104
Fresh: 73 | Rotten: 31

While it's hard not to wish it had a little more bite, Liberal Arts ultimately succeeds as a good-natured -- and surprisingly clever -- look at the addictive pull of nostalgia for our youth.


Average Rating: 6.6/10
Critic Reviews: 27
Fresh: 16 | Rotten: 11

While it's hard not to wish it had a little more bite, Liberal Arts ultimately succeeds as a good-natured -- and surprisingly clever -- look at the addictive pull of nostalgia for our youth.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 6,684

My Rating

Movie Info

Newly single and uninspired by his job in college admissions, the introverted Jesse Fisher (Josh Radnor) lives with his head buried in a book. His deep nostalgia for his own alma mater in Ohio - the dining halls and dorm rooms, the parties and poetry seminars - makes him wonder if his best days are behind him. So when his favorite professor (Richard Jenkins) invites him back to campus to speak at his retirement dinner, Jesse jumps at the chance. Meeting Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) - a precocious


Drama, Comedy

Josh Radnor

Dec 18, 2012


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All Critics (104) | Top Critics (27) | Fresh (73) | Rotten (31) | DVD (1)

Poetic justice Is served in insightful LIBERAL ARTS

November 8, 2013 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For a film about aging and romanticism, "Liberal Arts" feels like it needs a more mature script.

October 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Liberal Arts maneuvers its story in a philosophical way that is anything but detached. There's a warmth here that reminds audiences why college -- and, dare we say, their core curriculums? -- matter.

October 5, 2012 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As a comedy of manners, 'Liberal Arts' is perfectly likeable.But you might find its talky touchy-feeliness on the smug side.

October 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There are some entertaining and moving scenes here, but, overall, it's a bit softhearted for my taste.

September 28, 2012 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"Liberal Arts" sticks to the syllabus of a decidedly minor movie, but its humanities faculty is first-rate.

September 28, 2012 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Liberal Arts is a resolutely vanilla-flavored concoction but still pleasant, amiable, and a little more thoughtful than your average rom-com.

November 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Quickflix

An exuberant, heartfelt concoction, the kind of sunny comedy that's good for the soul.

July 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Pajiba

Some of the insights are a bit simplistic but for most of the running time, the film is an enjoyable diversion.

July 10, 2013 Full Review Source: The Playlist
The Playlist

LIBERAL ARTS never manages to turn these great performances and familiar dilemmas into something substantial.

April 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Badass Digest

Liberal laughs are guaranteed but memorable it ain't.

March 14, 2013 Full Review Source:

A diverting generational three-way dialogue between those barely out of their teens, those in their mid thirties and those well north of fifty.

March 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Film4 enthralling sophomore effort from an almost excessively promising filmmaker...

January 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

A writer/director/star, casting himself as the guy who's irresistible to all sorts of women? Woody Allen's been pulling that trick for about 40 years.

December 28, 2012 Full Review Source: EntertainmentTell

A warm, funny and, one imagines, rather personal film, one that's all about falling in and out of love, not just with people and places but the ideas they can sometimes embody.

December 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Moviedex

"Liberal Arts" develops into a special film, less of a love story and more about the pleasures and dangers of being on both sides of a nurturing student-mentor relationship.

December 14, 2012 Full Review Source: Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Has a soap opera vibe.

December 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

he characters are interesting and, again, I really felt for the guy's dilemma whether to start a relationship with this much, much younger girl or not.

December 12, 2012 Full Review Source: At the Movies (Australia)
At the Movies (Australia)

Josh Radnor is an actor who's not content to be just that.

December 12, 2012 Full Review Source: At the Movies (Australia)
At the Movies (Australia)

Radnor's problem stems from his casting prowess: Jenkins, Janney and Olsen are all so pleasurably adept in their parts that the film's star suffers by comparison. Jesse needs more than Josh Radnor's glibness.

December 12, 2012 Full Review Source: The Sunday Age

Liberal Arts is about going back in time in order to move forward. In so many moments Radnor could have taken disturbing and frustrating turns - and yet it's resistance and maturity saved it.

December 7, 2012 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

Has the hallmark of slow burning classic, starting deceptively uninvolving but gradually increasing in both interest and dramatic tension, with a tender emotional payoff that ripples across all the main characters

December 6, 2012 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) has directed and written an astonishingly good screenplay filled with delectable insights from three different age groups. He is also excellent as the film's protagonist

December 6, 2012 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Learning life's lessons is a bittersweet experience in Josh Radnor's appealing film

December 5, 2012 Full Review Source:

An insightful, touching and amusing three-generational study that is anything but sophomoric.

November 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

Audience Reviews for Liberal Arts

Josh Radnor has impressed this typically cynical reviewer. From sitcom star to director in just one move seemed awfully ambitious, I like many took very little notice. More fool me. Liberal Arts is a very pleasant surprise and maybe the first film aimed at 30 somethings that I, a 30 something, have related to. Apart from the whole cafe culture thing, I've never got that. It's a bit self-indulgent by why not, it's his film, his risk, and it works. The script is also something special. Playing on the theme of literature, Radnor makes sure his character is authentic. The conversation he has with his old professor just after sleeping with her is better than anything Woody Allen has written in the last decade.
February 26, 2014

Super Reviewer

three stars
February 5, 2014
MisterYoda ?

Super Reviewer

35 year old guy falls for 19 year old girl, but feels it would be inappropriate to act on it. Cast are fantastic. It's a small movie and not overly eventful, but I really enjoyed it. This is the second of Josh Radnor's films I have seen, I have been really impressed. And also with Elizabeth Olsen as an actress. Worth a watch.
January 4, 2014

Super Reviewer

Come on, Josh Radnor. You stripped away everything unique and heartwarming about "HappyThankYouMorePlease," leaving a pretentious, self-indulgent, third-life-crisis fantasy.

A 35-year-old admissions counselor (named "Jesse" of all things - that's not to knock all people named Jesse; it's just one of those hyper-cool Gen-X names that over-nostalgic writers throw in because they wish they'd been named Jesse) visits his alma mater and encounters a murder of college stereotypes: the mildly menacing, retirement-shy professor whom Jesse is called upon to honor; the GILF literature professor with whom he finally gets; the karate-chopping, Peruvian Hat-wearing (yes, that's what those knit hats with braided tassels are called) idiot savant (whom I was hoping would turn out to be a ghost); the suicidal wallflower with whom Jesse shares numerous veiled [insert suicidal author here] references; and of course, the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, who is legitimately dreamy at first, owing to the portrayal by fresh-faced Elizabeth Olsen, but then grows uncharacteristically shrill and immature after Jesse spurns her advances.

All of these supporting characters serve to exalt Jesse, it seems. He may fuck up along the way, but his higher morals, or his heartfelt apology, or his heroic gesture saves the day and puts him on a pedestal. Jesse and Zibby's long distance letter-writing campaign is vague and bland due to the fact that they only write about classical music, and as Frank Zappa or Ted Mosby might say, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," no matter how poetically waxed, which this really wasn't.

Honestly, the movie is just a bit too careful. Sam in "HTYMP" at least had an edge and owned his mistakes; Jesse is just too nice and not compelling.
November 13, 2013

Super Reviewer

    1. Prof. Peter Hoberg: Nobody ever feels like an adult. It's everybody's dirty little secret.
    – Submitted by Frances H (2 months ago)
    1. Jesse Fisher: Don't be a genius who dies young. Be one who dies old. Being old is cool. Grow old, and die old. It's a better arc.
    – Submitted by Andrea M (8 months ago)
    1. Zibby: Age is a stupid thing to obsess over.
    – Submitted by Cathy D (11 months ago)
    1. Jesse Fisher: They say the purpose of fiction is to combat loneliness.
    – Submitted by Zeldagne L (13 months ago)
    1. Jesse Fisher: Guilt before we act is called morality
    – Submitted by Zeldagne L (13 months ago)
    1. Jesse Fisher: I have a soft spot for good readers. They're hard to find these days.
    – Submitted by Karen M (15 months ago)
View all quotes (12)

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