“So, you went to college. Is your life better because of it?”
First of all, you should know I was raised on college campuses and worked on them my entire adult life as an academic librarian. As kids, we collected pop bottles on campus and I was born at a university hospital. So when I watched the film “Liberal Arts” this morning it spoke to me in so many interesting and unique ways. This screenplay is superb!
This film, which premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2021, deals with so many important aspects of life: love, romance, sex, maturing into adulthood, retirement and what happens to aging academics. The story is told from the perspective of a 35-year-old played by Josh Radnor, who wrote, directs and stars in this little gem. He plays Jesse, an admissions counselor in NYC whose life is on the skids (fully disillusioned and going through a divorce), when he is invited back to his small liberal arts college for a retirement party for one of his favorite professors.
Jesse absolutely loves returning to college. Ah. the feel of total irresponsibility on a small liberal arts college campus! There he meets a few characters who complicate is pathetic life. There’s a beautiful, young woman who he falls in love with over long-distance letter writing, there’s a mysterious elf-like creature who shows up regularly to share his truths. ‘Nat’, played so well by Zac Efron, seems so ethereal that Jesse says at one point, “I’m not even sure you’re real.” There are a few bitter older professors who cause Jesse some serious disillusionment over choosing the academic life, as well as a college kid who is right on the edge of giving up on life all together.
Jesse slowly begins to see that being such an intellectual and expert on books and ideas has stunted his growth in terms of simply living an authentic life. He connects with everyone through books and ideas. When asked at one point why those of us who are lucky enough to go to college should appreciate it, he says, “Because you have time to sit around reading books all day, and you have lots of smart people around to discuss ideas! That’s not true when you leave here…” Yes, college was certainly that for me, and caused one of my greatest disappointment in life. I’ve been seeking intellectual types to talk with my whole adult life. Where are all the intellectuals in rural Huerfano County, Colorado?
When I saw the preview, I thought this would just be a fun romp through the ridiculousness of academia, something I am a bit of a expert on. Oh the stories I could tell… “Liberal Arts” turned out to be one of my most favorite films. It somehow covers most stages of adult life and disillusionment with so many great lines like, “I think being old will be OK. It’s getting there that kicks your ass.”
See this film if you loved getting lost in books, being in college and have felt disillusioned ever since. You know, if you happen to be an academ-idiot like me!