Sometimes films get by on their innate likeability. Liberal Arts is a film like that.
The directorial debut of Josh Radnor (star of long-running US sitcom How I Met Your Mother), it capitalises on Radnor’s own on-screen likeability in such a way that even though it’s filled with the kind of mildly annoying, borderline quirky characters that have become a staple of sensitive indie dramas everywhere, it’s hard to take against it.
That’s no mean feat given that Radnor casts himself as a book-devouring, pining-for-his-youth New Yorker whose return to his alma mater results in a life-enriching new friendship with a 19-year-old college student called – I kid you not – Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen). This scenario may give rise to borderline insufferable book-reading and letter-writing montages, but Radnor displays enough self-awareness to avoid the film becoming the latest Garden State clone. The relationship between Radnor’s character Jesse and Zibby is key to this, thanks to the way it skirts perilously close to the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” scenario but smartly takes a more unexpected course. Radnor also adds some sly comic touches that further offset the life metaphor overload.
Anchor Bay, £15.99
THERE are many ways to step out from the shadow of a famous parent. Take Jennifer Chambers Lynch, the daughter of everybody’s favourite cinematic weirdo David Lynch.
While her first few films – the notorious Boxing Helena, the Lost Highway-esque Surveillance – felt like self-conscious, try-hard attempts to emulate the more oddball aspects of her father’s work, her new film Chained sees her adopting an altogether different approach by making something so wretched that it bears zero relation to anything in Lynch Sr’s canon.
A dismal serial killer film that recycles every hoary cliché of the genre, it stars Vincent D’Onofrio as an overweight taxi driver who preys on his female passengers. When he one day picks up a woman and her young son, he decides to spare the boy and raise him as his own, keeping him chained up in his basement.
Daddy issues are at the root of this film, but Lynch isn’t particularly interested in nuance. Instead, she piles on deadening exploitation set-pieces and builds up to an insultingly idiotic twist.
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