(Talking movies, differently #3)
Am I in love with Josh Radnor? One would think so. Two days back it was Happythankyoumoreplease and today, it is Liberal Arts. I think it’s got something to do with the essence of scripts in both the movies. There are no larger than life characters neither is there any exclamatory moment of climax, only those subtle but profound moments of revelations, simple revelations about living and just being. And that’s what makes it even harder to appreciate movies like these for you cannot glorify or subdue the simplicity; it is just as it is.
But unlike Happythankyoumoreplease, Liberal Arts has an underlying theme: the disjunction of one’s life with one’s own age. You can trace the pattern everywhere in the movie; it’s in the 19-year-old Zibby’s being ‘a little old fashioned and ahead of her times,’ Jesse being a little ‘stunted,’ and Prof. Peter Hoberg’s confession of feeling like a 19-year-old all time and never being able to live that same age ever again.
Where on one hand those three characters seem to be running away from their respective ages, Dean and Ana seem to have accepted or made peace with their age but with a chronic escape of being book dwellers.
‘I was thinking that probably reading about life was actually taking time away from really living my life.’
Prof. Judith Fairfield stands out from all the other characters for she seems to have accepted the harsh realities of life and living and working in systems that are institutionalized. Unlike Prof. Hoberg she isn’t clinging on to the past and waiting for some magic to redo the happy and youthful moments already lived. She is living her age ruthlessly and almost ironically to the British Romantics subjects she teaches. This one character particularly amazes me because she isn’t escaping any confrontation from her age rather she is trying to master it by keeping the want to survive, sanely…only it is a little tragic because she, to her core, too, doesn’t come across as a happy person.
So, what is exactly happening in this movie? Maybe what exactly happens in life- denial, in a very insightful and intense way. Where Zibby seems to be rushing the process to become her version of the old lady looking back at her, Jesse finds it an ideal proposition to slow the process down and for Prof. Hoberg is probably even too late to slow time in any dimension. Ann seems to be accepting what needs to be accepted and Dean struggles with the nothingness in living. Somewhere all of this begins to surface itself as Jesse welcomes growth in his life and extends the gratitude for the same towards Zibby. He maybe even subtly represents the difference between getting old and growing old.
The movie pans out entirely differently as Jesse accepts his life as it is and doesn’t go on looking for happiness in the past but welcomes new experiences to live life fully.
‘Be old. Grow old and die old; it’s a better arc.’
Talking about this movie would be incomplete if I don’t share my sentiments about my favorite character in the movie, the one I haven’t talked about till now, Nat. It’s amazing how Nat randomly shows up in the story, says the most meaningful dialogues and then, vanishes. I love the way he keeps addressing Jesse as ‘Ethan’ just because he thought Jesse was indeed Ethan when they met for the very first time on the campus. Nat’s character is a quirky one but also comes across as a character removed from the reality of the movie, maybe even the script! Whatever it is, he happens to be the most soulful character in the movie; he gives a quaint feeling to time in which the movie is set in (if you know what I mean!).