We mightn’t have met the mother yet, but sitcom star Josh Radnor’s not going to make us wait eight years to I.D his merit.
In between seasons of his bread-and-butter gig, “How I Met Your Mother”, Radnor’s been Zach Braff-ing himself, attempting to convince the industry he’s capable of working with more than one camera and a juiced-up studio audience.
His last, “HappyThankyouNoMorePlease” , though an admirable effort, was more “Last Kiss” than “Garden State”, but Radnor’s latest definitely borrows an element of class, not to mention akin story cues, from what’s now considered one of the better contemporary dramedies of our times.
“Liberal Arts” – written and directed by Radnor – is a tale of cursed lovers, coming of young age, coming of old age, and finding satisfaction and contentment within one’s self. It’s also somewhat of a love letter to literature (though its jabs at “Twilight” won’t go down too well with the Year 9’s) being that it’s two central characters might be what you’d call book nerds.
Film tells of a jaded thirty-something writer (Radnor) who returns to his college to pay tribute to a retiring professor (Richard Jenkins). Whilst there, he meets a 19 year-old (Elizabeth Olsen) – a book fan, no less – who develops an instant liking him for the older mentor type. He too, finds himself attracted to the young woman, but wrestles with the age difference.
With winning performances by Radnor and Olsen (amazing in every film she does), coupled with stupendous supporting turns by Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, Zac Efron and Elizabeth Reaser, “Arts” is a film that succeeds mostly because of its performers, rather than the not-totally surprising script.
Radnor’s penned a movie that feels familiar. You’ve seen a lot of it before, and the characters have been painted rather broadly, to say the least – some more detail and insight into who these people are and the audience might’ve developed a closer relationship with the folks on screen. Some might also question Radnor’s ignorance of ye old “love conquers all” scenario, in favour of simply cancelling out a possible relationship at the center of the film. Still, familiarity and opposing beliefs does not deter enjoyment of what is essentially a very decent final draft. We await the next one, sir (and, of course, the identity of TV’s most mysterious mother).
Extras : Deleted scenes and an IFC featurette.