A movie that loves books can’t be all that bad. Liberal Arts has an aura if you will; you can’t smell the book pages, but you kind of do.
Jesse (Josh Radnor)is a newly single 35 year old who describes New York City as the greatest city in the world. He then walks around with his head stuffed in a book. In a laundry room he leaves both his bag of dirty clothes and his book unattended for a few seconds and his clothes are stolen. Not the book.
The call from his mentor inviting him to his old campus in Ohio is more than welcome. He smiles upon the chance to drive down memory lane and test that old Golden Age syndrome.
He rekindles his friendship with Peter (Richard Jenkins), and we quickly understand why they formed a bond during the time shared in class. I felt a certain privilege being in the loop with Jenkins character, knowing certain things that were not shared with others, and I imagine Jesse would have felt it too.
Peter introduces him to Zibby, a 19 year old. The close-up of his reaction upon seeing her hints at what’s going to happen.
They talk easily, and their age difference seems unimportant when together. They have a mutual love for the same things, which seems to overflow. For Jesse, the relationship they develop is indivisible from the reminiscing surroundings. For Zibby, it’s indivisible from the youthful attraction towards more ancient things like letter writing, dating (apparently it’s outdated), classical music and… Jesse.
This movie is populated by other characters typical characters. Dean, the depressed over-intelligent type. Nat, the off-beat type that serves as a guide, wise beyond his years, in a stupid, stupid way. Zac Efron plays him, and I’m still not sure if I liked him. And the aging female teacher/crush.
In its core this is a classic tale. Most characters seem to be in a rut, and needing to estrange themselves from what’s familiar to rediscover what they love most. It was right there all along, you see…
A Professor spends his whole life complaining about a job only to realize it is the exact thing that gives his life meaning. On the other spectrum, the professor that is miserable, maybe because she lacks this experience.
A man who falls off-love with the “most beautiful city in the world” and goes to Ohio to rediscover it and more.
A girl who searches for a meaning in things beyond her years.
It’s simple enough movie. Sometimes I had to look away from some exaggerated naivety and idealism, but the atmosphere that pervades it is so connected with books that I found it an irresistible pleasure.
There are few shots without books in them, and many take place in libraries and bookstores. Book discussion is 99% of the dialogue, and there’s a character that critics the way people talk in hyperboles. There’s some Twilight bashing, which is always a plus. And in one of the most book-lover-directed scenes, Jesse takes up the role of the doctor and says to Dean, the depressed:
So… I’m taking you off post-modernists.
Mostly, I’d prescribe this movie to book-lovers.
I’m not the messiah, but you can follow me: