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Liberal Arts
001.jpg Original release: September 14, 2012 (Limited release)
Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Josh Radnor
Screenplay by: Josh Radnor
Produced by: Brice Dal Farra, Claude Dal Farra, Jesse Hara, Lauren Munsch, Josh Radnor
Distributed by: IFC Films
Box Office: $1.1 million

When 30-something Jesse returns to his alma mater for a professor’s retirement party, he falls for Zibby, a college student, and is faced with a powerful attraction that springs up between them.

Cast & Characters

Josh Radnor (Jesse Fisher), Elizabeth Olsen (Elizabeth “Zibby”), Richard Jenkins (Professor Peter Hoberg), Allison Janney (Professor Judith Fairfield), John Magaro (Dean), Elizabeth Reaser (Ana), Kate Burton (Susan), Robert Desiderio (David), Zac Efron (Nat), Gregg Edelman (Robert).

Production Photos



  • Filmed mostly at Josh Radnor’s alma mater Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school located in Gambier, Ohio. Allison Janney was a student there.
  • In the film’s opening scene Josh Radnor’s character is shown reading “God of Small Things”, whose plot also deals with the ‘laws of love’ – and what happens to those who break these rules – paralleling the characters of the film.
  • Although not mentioned by name, the fictional vampire book that sparks an argument between the two main characters is titled “Lunar Moon” and is not only based on “Twilight” but ts jacket cover is very similar to that of “Twilight” as well. Elizabeth Reaser, who plays Ana in this film, also plays Esme Cullen in the “Twilight” movies.
  • There was a story line with Michael Weston as Miles, a friend of Jesse’s who is trying to go to Spain but has several issues that keep him from going. All of his scenes were filmed but in the end not used in the movie. However, they are featured in the Bonus section of the DVD under Deleted Scenes.
  • The book discussed in the coffee shop is David Foster Wallace’s “The Infinite Jest.” Josh Radnor’s How I Met Your Mother (2005) co-star Jason Segel portrayed Wallace in the film The End of the Tour (2015).

Release & Reception

Liberal Arts received generally positive reviews and has a rating of 70% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 104 reviews with an average score of 6.6 out of 10. The consensus states: “While it’s hard not to wish it had a little more bite, Liberal Arts ultimately succeeds as a good-natured — and surprisingly clever — look at the addictive pull of nostalgia for our youth.” The film also has a score of 55 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 24 reviews, indicating “Mixed or average reviews”.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 and a half out of 4 stars and stated in his review:

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. There is a word to explain why this particular film so appealed to me. Reader, that word is “escapism.” If you understand why I used the word “reader” in just that way, you are possibly an ideal viewer for this movie.”