Liberal Arts

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 (Adult themes, sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Liberal Arts
  • a review of Liberal Arts completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 18 December 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to themes and sexual references
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and sexual references
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Liberal Arts
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, sexual references and coarse language
Length: 97 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Jesse (Josh Radnor) is an arts graduate in his thirties. He is on the admissions board at a college, looking to further his career. He gets a call from his old Professor, Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins) to attend his retirement party at his former college. Jesse returns to his alma mater full of nostalgia and a re-kindling of the passion he gained there for the arts. What he doesn’t expect to find is a passion for a sophomore, Zibby, (Elizabeth Olsen) who is mature beyond her years and who shares his love of the arts. She also introduces him to classical music and they discover they have much in common.

The difficulty in having a relationship with someone 16 years younger is obvious and one which gives Jesse much to contemplate. Jesse learns from Zibby, that despite their obvious attraction for each other, he also needs to grow up and start acting his age. Meanwhile his former Professor is also coming to terms with retirement and having to move on to life outside of the university.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Life transitions; relationships; suicide

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

None of concern

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

None of concern

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

None of concern

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

The theme of suicide features in this film and may disturb older children in this age group:

  • One of the students at the college, Dean has mental problems. He previously had some sort of break down and he takes an overdose of pills. Scared, he calls Jesse who immediately calls for an ambulance and his life is saved.
  • Peter has problems coming to terms with retirement and appears depressed. At one point he mentions jumping off a tall building.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the attempted suicide and reference to suicide mentioned above

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Zibby wants Jesse to spend the night with her but when she tells him it will be the first time she has had sex Jesse faces a moral dilemma.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Jesse has sex with another of his old professors Judith Fairfield (Allison Janney). Not much is shown but obvious loud noises are made. Afterwards she kicks him out.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Drinking in bars, clubs etc.
  • Zibby gets drunk after Jesse rejects her and she starts kissing another man passionately.
  • Prof. Fairfield smokes.
  • Dean takes an overdose of pills

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • screw you
  • Jesus Christ
  • Goddamn
  • shit
  • dick
  • bastard

In a nutshell

Liberal Arts is a romantic drama that deals with different stages of life and growing older. It also deals with the complexities of relationships with a wide age difference and the problems this might cause, so is mainly aimed at older teenagers and adults.

The main message from this movie is not to let yourself be blinded by love but to think through the consequences carefully.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Thinking about the consequences of your actions.
  • Deciding to have a sexual relationship with someone is an important step and should not be taken lightly.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Why Dean might have felt the way he did and what could have been done to make his situation better