University/College years are about intellectual and emotional discovery. Filmmaker Josh Radnor's Liberal Arts is about recreating the conditions of that tertiary experiment to learn more about yourself.

Thirty something Jesse (Josh Radnor) returns to his former college for his favourite professor's (Richard Jenkins) retirement party. While he's back he forms a bond with 19 year old college student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) and is conflicted by their age difference and how she make's him see the world.

Josh Radnor's Jesse is trapped. He's stuck in the routine of an unfulfilling job on the fringe of what he wants and in the wake of a bad break up. He's finding solace in the books that he immerses himself in. Radnor does a good job evoking his static life. He's triggered into a pattern of rediscovery via his relationship with Zibby. This 'muse' role could have been insincere in the hands of another actor but Elizabeth Olsen's tremendous physical and intellectual allure made it believable.

Allison Janney's bitter alpha female and Richard Jenkins perennial inspirational rebel were excellent and engaging supports. It was also a nice surprise to see Zac Efron playing a potentially imaginary, hippy sage.

Radnor's direction was most memorable in Jesse's discovery of opera. There's some wonderful summery New York montage scenes of his subjective perspective of how music changes his surroundings.
Unfortunately, there were some quite obviously philosophical and preachy moments of Radnor interacting with a young mentally damaged guy to provide guidance and in a moment with a former teacher that he used to crush on (Janney) that felt quite forced and selfcentered and they detracted from Jesse's arc.
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. [rating=3] and a half starsBlake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here.

Directed by: Josh Radnor Writer: Josh Radnor (screenplay) Starring: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney and Zac Efron

BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.