Jesse (Josh Radnor) is having a mid-thirties mid-life crisis. The one where it dawns on you that those dreams of setting the world on fire might not be on the cards. Jesse was happiest at university. Now, he works at a university – not teaching but in the admissions office. When he meets 19-year-old student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen, little sis of the twins) at the retirement dinner of his favourite professor, she does all the running. Zibby isn’t bothered that he’s 16 years older. Should he be?
In the Hollywood scheme of things, a 16-year age gap is no biggie (although Ewan McGregor swore off sex scenes, creeped out that his love interests stayed the same age as he got older). So a gold star to writer-director-actor Radnor for tackling the issue. There’s a great scene where Jesse does the maths: when he was 19, Zibby was, er, three. It gets better with age: when he’s 87, she’ll be 71. As a comedy of manners, Liberal Arts is perfectly likeable. But you might find its talky touchy-feeliness on the smug side. A professor tells Jesse: "Put some armour around that gooey little heart." And the film could learn from that.