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Liberal Arts - Blu-ray Review

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Liberal Arts - Blu-ray Review


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4 stars

“A Liberal Arts education will solve all your problems,” jokes writer/director/actor Josh Radnor (from CBS’ How I Met Your Mother).  It’s an ironic statement from the character he plays in his own Liberal Arts and one that certainly complicates matters between his 35-year-old self and a 19-year-old sophomore named Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen).  Call it an unexpected convergence of sorts but Radnor, maybe bored to death of his fairly static sitcom, certainly knows how to break out of the formulaic mold with this terrific romantic comedy that doesn’t limit itself by its genre.

Jesse (Radnor) travels from New York City and returns to his alma mater in Ohio in order to attend his favorite college professor’s (marvelously played by Richard Jenkins) retirement party.  He’s just broken up with his girlfriend and, with nothing but work on the schedule, he sees this as the opportunity he needs to reconnect with what inspired him to be a college admissions counselor.  While there, he meets a young college student (Olsen) and, through handwritten letters through the post, the couple falls for each other.

Liberal Arts has a bit of a complicated unfolding that audiences will appreciate (in fact, some will just about gobble its careful pacing up like some well-prepared holiday dinner).  Without dragging, the typical rom-com events don’t happen the way you expect them to.  There’s a bit of humorous convincing that needs to be done as Jesse factors in the whole age difference between Zibby and himself and, even then, his thirty-something life crashes straight into the nostalgia he feels back on the Midwestern campus and the “give me three more years” future he sees as his old college professor stumbles into retirement and begs to return to teaching.

Radnor’s sharp writing guides himself and Olsen (in another smart performance) toward a life-changing friendship that rewards not only the patient viewer but also those turned off by rom-com’s and their typical water treading.  Now, Radnor might need a more films under his belt to get a total grasp of the filmmaking technique (he’s not a natural like Affleck is), but the few directorial clichés in the film are covered by his witty and honest writing.

Co-starring Allison Janney as a former literature professor and Zac Efron (in a humorous role that may or may not be real), Liberal Arts has no trouble finding its voice.  It’s the audience that it will struggle to find.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Liberal Arts - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including references, mature thematic material, and some teen drinking.
97 mins.
: Josh Radnor
: Josh Radnor
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen; Josh Radnor; Richard Jenkins; Allison Janney; Elizabeth Reasor
Genre: Comedy | Drama
Sometimes students make the best teachers.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Did you think this was a romantic thing?"
IFC Films
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 14, 2012 (limited release)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 18, 2012

Synopsis: The story follows newly single 35-year-old Jesse Fisher. Uninspired by his job and worried that his best days are behind him, no matter how much he buries his head in a book life keeps pulling him 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 (Elizabeth Olsen) —a beautiful, precocious, classical-music-loving student. Zibby awakens scary, exciting, feelings of possibility and connection that Jesse thought he had buried forever.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Liberal Arts - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - December 18, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Shot digitally with the Red Epic camera, Liberal Arts with its 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation is as pretty a picture as it could ever get.  There’s simply nothing distracting from image.  Colors are sharp.  Flesh tones are accurate.  There’s no edge enhancement and no compression woes.  The film, maybe a bit under-lit due to the independent nature of its budget, looks like your standard HD drama.  There’s a nice layer of grain and fine detail throughout.  The dialogue-focused film features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that, never announcing itself, is perfectly garnished with surround channel ambience.



  • Writer/director/actor Josh Radnor and producer Jesse Hara discuss the film's ideas and intents, and provide lots of production anecdotes along the way.  This is a good listen for those who enjoyed the film.

Special Features:

IFC's blu-ray isn’t exactly loaded with a great amount of supplemental material, but it does provide quality for those thirty-something dudes and dudettes who haven’t quite found themselves.  The Deleted Scenes are the best, providing glimpses into excised subplots with Jesse’s friend who wants to travel abroad but can't quite work up the nerve, plus more with his old girlfriend.  There’s also a promo with film clips and a few short interviews with the cast.

  • Deleted Scenes (16 min)
  • Featurette (2 min)
  • Original Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}


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