College. Literature. Departmental Politics. Insight into the hearts and minds of professors and students – both undergrad and eternal. As a child of academics, these are the subject matters of my life. Usually when there is a film about college, I cringe. This one had me laughing, tearing up and saying, “Ain’t that the truth.”
Josh Radnor has made a truly lovely and heartfelt film without straying from the truth of what life in The English Department can be about. My dad was in The English Department. I was raised there. What can I say? I have a special critical eye when it comes to this subject matter. Also, I met Josh Radnor when Alan was performing Awake And Sing with him in The Berkshires a dozen years ago. Even as a young professional, Josh told me of his plans to make films – and over the years he has done just that with his hiatus time from his hit show (How I Met Your Mother). This time, he really comes into his own as a filmmaker in my opinion. He is a lovely actor as well and does beautifully in the role of the college recruiter visiting his old Alma Mater and finding himself falling in love with a student. There are wonderful performances in addition to his own. Richard Jenkins as the retiring professor who wants a “do over” is brilliant. Alison Janney as the tough as nails professor of the English Romantic takes what might become a cliché into ironic delight.
What is it in for lawyers? Other than a sweet ride? I must say, as soon as it was clear that the college recruiter in his mid-thirties was falling for the student in her early twenties, I started getting really uncomfortable. Over the sixty years I have been alive, I have watched the relationship between students and faculty/administrators change for the better. When I was a kid, professors (male) met their spouses when they were teaching them in class. There are many famous examples of this – I keep thinking Walter Kerr and Jean Kerr, although there were tons in my real life. Then, when I was a student, it was widely accepted that professors and students were allowed to sleep together – again, surprisingly, male professors and female students. I consider myself really fortunate for not getting involved in anything like that. Since leaving school and moving on and looking at this whole situation through legal eyes, I have a different perspective on the issue. A person with power over another person in a relationship will always have an unequal relationship. I think Radnor makes his character’s college a different place from the one in which he falls in love with a student for good reason. It certainly dodges this legal bullet. But I still felt uncomfortable. I still found this relationship to be unequal in terms of power. It really got my “is this an ethical situation” antennae up. What do you think?
TIP: If it feels unethical – is it…?