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Liberal Arts (2012)


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

Critics Consensus: 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: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 28
Fresh: 16
Rotten: 12

Critics Consensus: 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: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 7,024




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 … More

PG-13 (for sexual content including references, mature thematic material, and some teen drinking)
Drama , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By:
Josh Radnor
In Theaters:
Dec 18, 2012
Box Office:
IFC Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Liberal Arts

All Critics (104) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (73) | Rotten (31) | DVD (1)

Poetic justice Is served in insightful LIBERAL ARTS

Full Review… | November 8, 2013
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | October 25, 2012
Detroit News
Top 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.

Full Review… | October 5, 2012
Denver Post
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | October 2, 2012
Time Out
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | September 28, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | September 28, 2012
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | November 25, 2013

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

Full Review… | July 17, 2013

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

Full Review… | July 10, 2013
The Playlist

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

Full Review… | April 3, 2013
Badass Digest

Liberal laughs are guaranteed but memorable it ain't.

Full Review… | March 14, 2013

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

Full Review… | March 4, 2013 enthralling sophomore effort from an almost excessively promising filmmaker...

Full Review… | January 15, 2013
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.

Full Review… | December 28, 2012

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.

Full Review… | December 25, 2012

"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.

Full Review… | December 14, 2012
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

Has a soap opera vibe.

Full Review… | December 13, 2012
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.

Full Review… | December 12, 2012
At the Movies (Australia)

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

Full Review… | December 12, 2012
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.

Full Review… | December 12, 2012

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.

Full Review… | December 7, 2012
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

Full Review… | December 6, 2012
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

Full Review… | December 6, 2012
Urban Cinefile

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

Full Review… | December 5, 2012

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

Full Review… | November 7, 2012
Orlando Weekly

Audience Reviews for Liberal Arts

A very effective drama about whether or not a 35 year old man should be a with a 19 year old girl. Honestly throughout the film they make you think it is okay and then turn it around and make you feel guilty for thinking that, but the chemistry between the two leads is phenomenal. I really really enjoyed my viewing of this film and it gave me a whole new perspective on how some people think and how they are motivated by other things. Overall, I think this is a very powerful film in the way it tries to get it's story across. "Liberal Arts" is one of those independent films that comes around ever couple years, that may not be amazing, but it will leave a warm feeling in your heart by the end. Highly recommended.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer


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.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

three stars

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.

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

Liberal Arts Quotes

Don't you think you're romanticizing youth a bit much?
– Submitted by Ryan B (5 months ago)
Prof. Peter Hoberg:
Nobody ever feels like an adult. It's everybody's dirty little secret.
– Submitted by Frances H (8 months ago)
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 (14 months ago)
Age is a stupid thing to obsess over.
– Submitted by Cathy D (17 months ago)
Jesse Fisher:
They say the purpose of fiction is to combat loneliness.
– Submitted by Zeldagne L (19 months ago)
Jesse Fisher:
Guilt before we act is called morality
– Submitted by Zeldagne L (19 months ago)

Discussion Forum

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