Monday, 22 October 2012

Liberal Arts (2012)

I'm tired, so very tired, and I'm only just starting my third week back at university. I hope things will calm down a bit soon. When I'm not eating, breathing and sleeping French and German (I'm speaking quite literally here - one of the international students I mentor, who's Austrian, very kindly made me some vegan Apfelbeignets. And I've dreamt in French a couple of times lately), I'm trying to keep up with extracurriculars, and also make some time for myself, of course.

So what better way to take my mind of all this than going to see a film that's all about university?

So far, so Juno
Liberal Arts is the second film by Josh Radnor, aka Ted off How I Met Your Mother. It's about Jesse, a 30-something New York professor who returns to his old college town in Ohio, he meets Zibby, a student there played by Lykke Li's long-lost twin, Elizabeth Olsen, and... well, you can probably guess at least some of the rest of the storyline.

But I think what stopped this film from basically being Garden State is that it was actually quite intelligent, and addressed some issues that I've been pondering in my life lately. For example, there's a bit where Zibby is reading a Twilight-style book, and Jesse aggressively demands to know why she reads that kind of thing when she's educated and intelligent. She can't explain it... she just likes it. In fact, she gets aggressive about it (and rightly so): 'You think it's cool to hate things, and it's not - it's boring. Talk about what you love and keep quiet about what you don't'.
It becomes a bone of contention between the two of them, until in the end he actually finds something it's good for. I feel this is a position I have been in a few times in my life, but most often in the context of music - someone might consider me to have "good" taste, but then I reveal that I like some pop star whom they have never even listened to but criticise anyway, and I have to try and justify myself in a similar way to the one shown in the film. It's tiresome. Being clever and enjoying something frivolous are never mutually exclusive: this is something that I have only begun to accept in myself quite recently and I feel a lot better about myself for it.

Another part that resonated with me - and I'll try to make this spoiler-free - was Zibby's realisation that she wanted to feel grown-up, but was trying to fast-forward it. This is exactly how I felt in my first year of university, and it is a valuable lesson I have learnt. Of course, my life has changed a lot since that year, and I do indeed have so many responsibilities to take care of nowadays, and I am only really just starting to feel like a grown-up now that the beginning of my future is on the horizon. But I think that it is something useful to keep in mind for anyone who is about to enter university. You don't have to be perfect, because by the time you graduate, you'll realise how far you've come.