We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Josh Radnor's "Liberal Arts" is an almost unreasonable pleasure about a jaded New Yorker who returns to his alma mater in Ohio and finds that his heart would like to stay there. It's the kind of film that appeals powerfully to me; to others, maybe not so much.
There is a part of me that will forever want to be walking under autumn leaves, carrying a briefcase containing the works of Shakespeare and Yeats and a portable chess set. I will pass an old tree under which once on a summer night I lay on the grass with a fragrant young woman and we quoted e.e. cummings back and forth.
Jesse, the character played by Josh Radnor (who also wrote and directed the film), has stayed in academia but surely in its least pleasant job. He is a New York City college admissions officer, turning young people away at the gates of Valhalla. He receives an invitation to a retirement party for Peter (Richard Jenkins), a professor who was one of his undergraduate heroes. Jesse returns to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, a campus so beautiful I now understand why I subscribed to the Kenyon Review for years: Its pages must have absorbed the grace of the campus.
The retirement is far from perfect, because Peter has to admit to himself that he has no desire to retire. Richard Jenkins is the kind of actor you can easily imagine being someone's beloved mentor and understand why he would surrender that role with reluctance. At a party, he introduces Jesse to Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a 19-year-old daughter of friends, who is studying improv theater. Did I mention that Jesse is 35?