Mixed or average reviews - based on 24 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 42 Ratings

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  • Starring: , , ,
  • Summary: Newly single, 35, and uninspired by his job, Jesse Fisher worries that his best days are behind him. But no matter how much he buries his head in a book, life keeps pulling Jesse back. When his favorite college professor invites him to campus to speak at his retirement dinner, Jesse jumps at the chance. He is prepared for the nostalgia of the dining halls and dorm rooms, the parties and poetry seminars; what he doesn’t see coming is Zibby—a beautiful, precocious, classical-music-loving sophomore. Zibby awakens scary, exciting, long-dormant feelings of possibility and connection that Jesse thought he had buried forever. (IFC Films) Collapse
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 24
  2. Negative: 2 out of 24
  1. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Sep 7, 2012
    Olsen, moody and apple-cheeked and intellectually avid, proves a true star: She turns being wiser than her years into an authentic generational state.
  2. Reviewed by: Ian Freer
    Sep 30, 2012
    It lacks filmmaking fireworks but Liberal Arts is a B+ for Josh Radnor: strong writing, great performances (Olsen is the real deal) and a touching, upbeat tale for the big-brained and big-hearted.
  3. Reviewed by: Loren King
    Sep 20, 2012
    Radnor's script is more bittersweet than laugh-out-loud funny.
  4. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Sep 11, 2012
    There's too much going on here - of a winning, thoughtful nature - to dismiss Josh Radnor's back-to-college romance as the nostalgia bath it mainly is.
  5. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Sep 13, 2012
    The harder Mr. Radnor strains to make you love his alter ego, the more resistant you become.
  6. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    Sep 7, 2012
    This makes the film feel perilously close to widescreen sitcom, as do montages of New York set to Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.
  7. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Sep 14, 2012
    Jesse's nobility is one of the primary reasons Liberal Arts is so hard to take.

See all 24 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. Sep 18, 2012
    Absolutely loved this movie. It was smart, funny, and heartwarming: not a combination I find that much in movies these days. For sure this is one I'll watch again at least a few times. Expand
  2. Sep 15, 2013
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. I like Josh Radnor in CBS's "How I Met Your Mother", so I decided to watch the second film he directed.

    I liked it! Josh incorporates elaborate story lines and the transitions flow smoothly. Here are some positives and negatives about the film:


    -Good casting; a talented cast. Elizabeth Olsen is the shining star here. Josh Radnor puts on a good performance, but Olsen steals the show. Playing "Zibby", she had so much energy and zip to her. She delivered her lines with confidence, and it made me feel like she really became the character: a good talent to have in the acting world. I bet she will have a bright future ahead of her in Hollywood.

    -Great script with rich dialogue. For example, the post-coital scene with Jesse (Josh Radnor) and the professor (Allison Janney) was a nice touch, and you may not get what they're saying at first, but if you think about the dialogue on a deeper level, you'll get it, and the film will seem so much better than what you originally thought.

    -Overall, the movie had lots of meaning, and Jesse's journey throughout the film will stick with you and perhaps remind you of even your life, if not the life of someone you know. The movie has a familiarity that I couldn't escape.


    -Ana (Elizabeth Reaser), Jesse's "girlfriend" at the end, was kind of forgettable. After seeing what an amazing performance Elizabeth Olsen put on, I think they could've gotten a better actress to play Ana. She just didn't seem like a round character, and seemed kind of like a cardboard cutout of Jesse's girlfriend instead of actually giving something memorable to the role.

    -The cinematography was up to par mostly, but in a couple shots in the beginning and throughout the movie, I noticed the editing was a little choppy and could've been tighter between shots.

    -Josh Radnor, instead of putting a new take on the role, kind of plays the usual "Ted" (his character on How I Met Your Mother) role: a romantic man who is quietly nice and innocent. Though he played the role well, I wish he would've done something different with it.

    -The scene with Peter (Richard Jenkins)and Bob (I forget the actor)was confusing to me. Peter asks for his position at the university back after he says he's retiring, and Bob informs him it's gone to someone else by now. Bob specifically says (paraphrasing) "We already have a new candidate with very good credentials...I'm sorry." The way he said it, I thought he was hinting that Jesse got the job, and I quickly thought this could've been possible, since he wanted to see Elizabeth Olsen, and that maybe he did that to be with her more. The scriptwriters should've been more clear on that and put it in a different way to not act like they're hinting at that.

    I definitely recommend this movie; see it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Except for those small flaws, the bigger picture and overall message of this film overpowers them.

    Also, I still haven't seen his directorial debut, Happythankyoumoreplease, and I definitely will be seeing that. Hopefully you'll see a review from me soon for that movie
  3. Nov 19, 2012
    The chemistery between Elizabeth Olsen and Josh Radnor is just great
  4. Nov 13, 2014
    "Liberal Arts" 10 Scale Rating: 7.5 (Very Good) ...

    The Good: Quirky and chock full of college nostalgia for thirty-somethings, "Liberal
    Arts" was easy for me to relate to. While Radnor was mostly serviceable, Elizabeth Olsen and Richard Jenkins turn in fantastic performances, especially Jenkins. Not laugh out loud funny but witty and clever enough to be chuckle-worthy with entertaining dialogue.

    The Bad: One character in particular (played by Zac Efron) was very random and missed the target. He was put in to be some sort of comic relief and seemed out of place. Radnor himself was decent, but he always seems to be the same guy in everything I see him in ... Ted Mosby, architect from "How I Met Your Mother". He just seems to lack the range to play anyone else.
  5. Dec 19, 2013
    Overall Liberal Arts if a very respectable first film for Josh Radnor. It is filled with misunderstandings, broken hearts, and some tough life lessons. The characters are likeable and memorable, the dialogue is very poignant at times, and the film manages to stay away from the cliches that are so common in Hollywood dramas. Expand
  6. May 11, 2014
    somewhat surreal but enlightening story. It elaborates the people whose lives were overturned through some groundbreaking experience that are inevitable in ones' path of life: retirement, unrequited love..... Overall the movie worth time. Expand