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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Love can strike anytime and anywhere -- but in the real world, not every pairing can work, even between people who get along wonderfully. This film examines the possibilities of a May-December flirtation between a young college girl and a man approaching middle age, who wonder whether love is enough to sustain them. They think carefully and thoughtfully about the implications and make well-reasoned decisions.
Positive Role Models
Jesse is clearly torn between his attraction to a charming, eager college student and his realization that she's 16 years his junior, and a relationship with her may not be good for either of them.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A college student discusses whether she should sleep with an older man. A couple has a one-night stand, with some brief sex sounds that take place in the dark. People are shown after having sex. A couple kisses warmly.
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Relatively infrequent swearing includes "screw," "p---y," "sucks," and "screw you." Two people flip each other off.
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Products & Purchases
The film promotes Kenyon College, where it was filmed.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some drinking at meals and social events, and a bit more drinking at college parties. One woman lights up a cigarette after sex.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Liberal Arts centers on the budding relationship between a teenage college girl and a man in his mid-30s and looks at whether they can make things work despite the significant age difference. Don't expect any teen-sex comedy cliches -- this thoughtful film starring writer-director Josh Radnor (from the sitcom How I Met Your Mother) and Elizabeth Olsen, tackles the question realistically, and the couple works through their obvious attraction and the equally obvious hurdles they face. Expect some swearing and drinking, and one sex scene that takes place in the dark but has some very obvious sounds. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The ideas that propel LIBERAL ARTS are interesting and even mildly thought-provoking. Who among us hasn't, at some point, tired of the daily grind of a grown-up life? Especially one like Jesse's: He's in an unimpressive apartment in a difficult city interviewing pre-collegiate kids full of hope, kids with so much ahead of them. It's these observations that make Liberal Arts a joy to watch. That and its circuitous but still refreshing plot in search of a happy ending. Everything until Jesse finds himself alone with Zibby in her dorm room has spark, the crackle of possibility. (Plus, Richard Jenkins! The man elevates anything he's in.) And its hard left turn into a direction different from what you might expect is surprising in a pleasant way.
Still, what does come next seems moot at that point, and Liberal Arts loses its footing a bit. The ending feels like an afterthought; we want to be back in the thick of Zibby and Jesse's flirtation, back when something beautiful appears all too possible. But alas. Isn't it pretty to think so?
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.