6 January 2013 | salbelmondo-570-512867
Charm and Wonderful Acting Make for a Worthwhile Watch
The hyphenate that is this Josh Radnor guy presents a somewhat thin but ultimately rewarding film with LIBERAL ARTS. The story is a charming one—jaded New Yorker makes an excursion back to his alma mater in Ohio and meets a much younger and gorgeous kindred spirit who forces him to self-reflect. But unfortunately, it's also a story that provides enough material for an 80 minute film which Radnor stretches out to around 97 minutes. Thus, some of the film drags a bit. Luckily, Radnor casts actors with incredible talent who breathe life into the film when it begins to deflate.
Elizabeth Olsen, specifically, is an ace. In a character reversal from her breakthrough in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, she is beautiful and funny, effortlessly natural. The scenes featuring her make the film. Watching her this early in her career and contemplating just how much potential she has and what she'll be able to do with it is exciting for any movie lover. Richard Jenkins is wonderful as always, as is Allison Janney. Even Zac Efron, making a humorous cameo appearance, helps liven things up a bit. The bond shared between Radnor's character and a depressed, anti-social undergrad, played by John Magaro, is particularly sincere.
The film seems to be a meditative-lite work. It's brooding and thoughtful, but it's not something that will permeate your thoughts or stick with you days after watching. But it isn't supposed to be. (At least I don't think so.) The film is probably significantly more appealing to a select group of people—mainly those with a "liberal arts" background, or those able to register all of the literary references—but that is not to say the film is only for some. The pleasant romantic-comedy-ish-drama story and the aforementioned acting is enough to create a film anyone can enjoy if they try. If the viewer tries to get past the somewhat pretentious collegiate talk, tries to hold on for the somewhat slow moments, tries to watch the film as a light and entertaining piece to pass 90-something minutes, it's highly recommended. Seek it out.