Actor Josh Radnor, the "I" in "How I Met Your Mother," stretches himself as writer, director and star of "Liberal Arts," a comedy-drama overfilled with thirtysomething navel-gazing angst.
Radnor plays Jesse, a 35-year-old New Yorker whose life hasn't turned out the way he thought it would in college. This realization comes when he returns to his Ohio alma mater for the retirement dinner of his favorite English professor (Richard Jenkins) and deepens when he becomes taken with a bright and bubbly 19-year-old student named Zibby (played by Elizabeth Olsen).
Radnor's script takes some dips toward the cloyingly cute, with a too-precious letter exchange between Jesse and Zibby, and in Jesse's encounters with a wisdom-dispensing campus slacker (Zac Efron). But Radnor is unabashed in his love of great books and his respect for the intellectual mind, even as he occasionally succumbs to sitcom-simple conclusions.
This is Radnor's second feature film (after the ensemble romance "happythankyoumoreplease"), and he shows signs of cinematic growth that will flourish when moviemaking becomes more than something he does while on hiatus from his TV series.
Opens Friday, Sept. 28, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; not rated, but probably PG-13 for sexual situations, drug use and language; 97 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.