College and I got along terrifically well – maybe too well. My transition into the “real world,” absent dorms, seminars, and meal plans, was bumpy, to say the least. Four years at Kenyon College flew by; graduation felt less like celebration than banishment.
“Liberal Arts” is at once love letter to a liberal arts education and recognition of its limits. It posits that books and the academic mindset can be simultaneously liberation and a kind of prison – that an over-developed mind paired with a disengaged heart can bring one more anxiety than joy.
Everyone in “Liberal Arts” – the students, the professors, the 35-year-old alum – is suffering to some extent, wishing circumstances were different. The journey each character takes in the movie is one of acceptance. For Jesse, that acceptance has to do with his past – specifically his college years – and the painful suspicion that his best days are behind him.
It’s easy to get tripped up by our past, to romanticize it out of all proportion. The trouble with nostalgia is that it tends to distort and reduce the present moment; it puts us to sleep. While we obsess over the good old days, the good – and possibly better – new ones roll on by without our noticing.
Still, the past must be dealt with. If we’re to step into our lives in a vital and engaged manner, we must both bless our past and bid farewell to it. Liberal Arts is, for me, both a blessing and a farewell.
Directed by: Josh Radnor
Starring: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Zac Efron, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, Elizabeth Reaser
Screenplay by: Josh Radnor
Production Design by: Jade Healy
Cinematography by: Seamus Tierney
Film Editing by: Michael R. Miller
Costume Design by: Deborah Newhall
Art Direction by: Scott Kuzio
Music by: Ben Toth
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including references, mature thematic material, and some teen drinking.
Studio: IFC Films
Release Date: September 14, 2012
Related Link: View the Full Production Notes for Liberal Arts