If Lawless echoed The Proposition for me, then Liberal Arts reminded me a bit of The Last Kiss – thirtysomething meets college girl and uses his infatuation with her to deal with a bit of a midlife crisis. But luckily for Liberal Arts, it’s presented in a far more interesting, likable and realistic way. Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother fame plays Jesse, an admissions officer in the never identified (but clearly recognisable) NYU. When one of his favourite college professors announces that he’s retiring, Jesse returns his alma mater, the University of Ohio, to attend the retirement dinner and finds himself smack dab in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Jesse has never really moved on or gotten over his university days and instead of moving forward, has kind of drifted into his mid-30s and begins an age inappropriate romance with Zibby (the surprisingly good Elizabeth Olsen). The rest of the movie is oddly, a coming of age story for Jesse.
The idea that adults nowadays don’t really grow up until their 30s is a trendy one rights now (see the entire Zach Braff collection), but Liberal Arts is far from the worse example of the genre. There’s a subplot with one of Zibby’s classmates, a kid named Dean (Radnor never spells it out, but it’s clearly a reminder that university isn’t always as great as we see it through the nostalgia) which is enjoyable. The film is populated by good actors (Elizabeth Reaser and Allison Janney both have good and memorable supporting roles), but the problem is that they’re wasted in a film that can’t seem to flesh out its female characters. The film never seems to be able to go beyond the basic sketching (cynical older woman, girl in a bookstore, manic pixie dream girl) and while it is enjoyable and funny in parts, it never really rises to the point that it says something new and interesting about being a 30-something finding yourself.
This movie was all about the beauty of New England in the autumn, so I decided to pair it with a recipe for pumpkin bread. I’m really in pumpkin mode at the minute, so hopefully these two pair nicely together!
Pumpkin Bread (adapted from My Baking Addiction)
1 can pumpkin puree (I buy Libby’s brand at either Whole Foods or Waitrose)
4 eggs (not pictured)
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 cup plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
Now, I wasn’t sure I was going to share this, so I didn’t do the step by step photos that I normally do. But this is a fairly easy recipe to mix together, so hopefully there will be no problems in putting it together yourself.
Mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, oil and pumpkin. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add in the varied spices as well as the bicarbonate of soda. Sift in the flour.
Set the oven to 170C. You now have a choice: you can make two small loafs or one large one. I went with the one large, but it does make a REALLY big loaf. Cook for about 60 to 75 minutes.