Two years ago, a tiny movie from a first-time filmmaker about a group of young, attractive New Yorkers struggling to balance their various romantic entanglements and impending adulthood, surprised festivalgoers by winning the coveted Audience Award at Sundance. Written and directed by Josh Radnor, best known as the lead on How I Met Your Mother, the hit CBS sitcom, HappyThankYouMorePlease won over audiences in Park City, Utah. And his sophomore feature, Liberal Arts, elicited a standing ovation at the press and industry screening I attended.
Based in part on Radnor’s time as an undergrad at Kenyon College, and shot on location at the Ohio school, Liberal Arts tells the story of Jesse (Radnor), a 35-year-old college-admissions counselor who’s trapped in a state of arrested development. When his second favorite college professor, Prof. Hoberg (Richard Jenkins), asks him to return to college for his retirement ceremony, Jesse finds himself on a journey of self-discovery involving an enchanting young sophomore, Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), who harbors a crush on him; a hippie with some sagelike advice, played by Zac Efron; and his fiery former British romantic literature professor (Allison Janney).
Sundance Channel sat down with Josh Radnor to chat about Liberal Arts, his own college experiences—first at Kenyon College, and then at NYU—if he’s ever romanced a much younger woman, and how much longer How I Met Your Mother will last.