For whatever reason Josh Radnor‘s Liberal Arts (IFC Films, 9.14), one of the surprises of the Sundance Film Festival (for me at least), has no website up. Isn’t that odd for a film that’s coming out two months hence? And it’s a very decent dramedy — mature, intelligent, well-written, non-cloying, well-acted.
The indication, obviously, is that IFC Films isn’t feeling that enthusiastic, but the film, directed and written by Radnor, played really well at the Eccles screening I attended last January. People were levitating.
Update: IFC Films bigwig Ryan Werner says “everything is coming momentarily on Liberal Arts. We’ve been working with Josh this summer on the materials, etc. And we just did a NYC screening and party at BAM Cinemafest and the film played huge. We remain super enthusiastic.”
Liberal Arts “is a step up in somewhat (but not quite) the same way Annie Hall was a step up for Woody Allen…almost” I wrote on 1.23.12. “Mature, at times melancholy, dialogue and character-driven, not overtly ‘comedic’ (and thank God for that). I really didn’t care for Radnor’s happythankyoumoreplease, so I went expecting not too much and was pleasantly surprised.”
Radnor plays a bright, neurotic, 30-something Manhattanite who’s in a kind of dead-end place, career- and relationship-wise. He’s invited back to his university (somewhere in lower Vermont or New Hampshire, as I recall**) and slips into a really nice platonic thing with a 19-year-old sophomore (Elizabeth Olsen). It naturally occurs to both to take things to the next level, and at this juncture Radnor starts getting all glum and guilt-trippy himself about the wrongness of doing a little 19 year-old lamb. But hold on. When Radnor’s character turns 41 or 42 Olsen’s character will be 29 or 30 or thereabouts — what’s the problem with that? Life is short. It can’t last? Maybe not, but what in life is guaranteed to be a long-term thing?
42 year-old Woody Allen had no problem doing 17 year-old Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, and in some ways she was more emotionally mature than he. I myself had a really rich and moving thing with a 19 year-old when I was 28, and I never had a moment’s concern and neither did she. Well, I did have a concern when she wound up dumping me after 18 months or so. I was devastated but that’s life. All’s fair, rough and tumble, no assurances.
Liberal Arts costars Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro and Elizabeth Reaser.
** Liberal Arts was actually shot in Columbus and Gambier, Ohio — no Manhattan, no New England.