Liberal Arts

I've been a fan of How I Met Your Mother for years now. It's a show that has added a great many things to my pop culture lexicon, like all of Barney Stinson's wonderful catchphrases, and an appreciation of just how talented a cast the show has. Possibly the greatest thing to come out of that cast is Josh Radnor... not because he's a great actor, mind you; he's decent, but he's easily the weakest part of the cast. No, what's so great about that show bringing Josh Radnor to prominence is that it has let him get noticed as a filmmaker, both as a writer and director. His first effort, Happythankyoumoreplease, was pretty awesome. Why I never blogged about it, I have no idea. Maybe I'll revisit it for that purpose one day. But for now, I'm here to talk about his second effort...

Liberal Arts is pretty damn awesome. I more or less fell in love with it in the first twenty-five minutes. It's basically the story of a thirty-five-year-old college admissions advisor who is pretty much lost in life named Jesse (Radnor). He goes back to his alma mater to give a speech at the retirement party of his favorite professor, Peter (Richard Jenkins), and while there he meets Zibby, short for Elizabeth (played by the absolutely brilliant Elizabeth Olsen). The cast is rounded out by Allison Janney, who plays a bitter English professor; a guy I've never heard of named John Magaro, who gives what it in my opinion a star-making performance as Dean, a troubled student Jesse connects with; and Zac Efron, who you'd think would be the weak spot in the cast but his Nat, a complete weirdo who sort of mentors Jesse at a few points, is flat-out hysterical. I never thought I'd say a nice thing about him in my life, but here we are.

Jesse and Zibby connect over their love of classical music and literature... Jesse at one point says he majored in English and minored in history in order to make himself completely unemployable. That's a statement me and my major in English and minor in communications can completely agree with, but I digress. When Jesse returns to NY after a fun day with Zibby, they keep in touch, not by texting or e-mailing, but by writing old-fashioned, honest-to-god letters back and forth.

I can't even begin to tell you how much the romantic in me loved that.

Anyway, eventually Jesse goes to see Zibby again, and... well, I'm not going to spoil it. Nor will I spoil anything about Jesse's interactions with Dean, or Nat. Part of the joy of this movie is seeing where the character relationships go; they don't necessarily go where you want them to go as you watch and get invest, but, in the end, they go where they need to go, which is the sign of something being truly, brilliantly written. The direction is just as brilliant in my opinion, but I'm not nearly qualified to really go into that. The cast rises to the level of the script and direction as well. All in all, it's just a really great, beautiful movie that touched me a lot and is easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

But that should come as no surprise. A movie that produces the line, "the purpose of fiction is to combat loneliness," is pretty much destined to be found, seen, and loved by me. It's easily my favorite movie this year that didn't involve a comic book character, so you should probably check it out. Like, now.