Jacob Hutchings
Owen Gleiberman
September 11, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Liberal Arts

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
runtime
97 minutes
performer
Elizabeth Olsen, Josh Radnor
director
Josh Radnor
genre
Comedy

We gave it an A-

In Liberal Arts, which Josh Radnor wrote, directed, and stars in, he plays Jesse, a menschy admissions counselor who returns to his leafy, idyllic Midwestern college to honor his favorite English prof (Richard Jenkins). Jesse spends the weekend reveling in wistful lit-major memories and hanging with Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a sophomore 16 years younger than he is. The sparks fly. Olsen, moody and apple-cheeked and intellectually avid, proves a true star: She turns being wiser than her years into an authentic generational state. And Radnor, who’s like Paul Rudd’s puppyish cousin, nails the castle-in-the-air mood of privileged dislocation. Liberal Arts presents the bond between these two as casual yet engulfing — until their big moment of truth arrives. That’s when the film takes a less adventurous turn, but it’s still the wittiest, most perceptive campus comedy in years. A-

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