Liberal Arts (2012) Script

[birds chirping]

[light guitar music]

[rooster crows]

[lively hoedown music]

You know, high school to college, it can be a big transition, especially if you're not from the city, so-so we try to help out with that transition in a number of ways.

Wow, that's a real accomplishment.


I mean, you're not in yet, but... no, things are looking pretty good.

We do an all-campus picnic, which is a nice way for the incoming students to acclimate themselves to the college.

For me, the most exciting thing about this place is the classes.

So you don't want to go to college?

You know, I'm not up to date on the course catalog.


One of the great things about this school is, you know, you have a campus called New York City.

Greatest city in the world, they say.

I thought your essay was- was interesting.

A spell-check might be nice on these essays.

Planning on taking your boards again?

Love those extracurriculars.

Have you heard about the meal plan?


Where do you see things going, you know, after-after college?

[horn honking in the distance]

[jackhammer chattering]


- Mm, mm, mm-hmm Hmm, mm Look at how life has gone today My sweet love is gone away My sweet love is gone today My sweet love is gone away now

Mm, mm

Look at how life has gone away

My sweet love is gone away

My sweet love is gone today

My sweet love is gone away now

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm

Yours or mine?


You can have it if you want, though.

Is that a new shirt?

Uh, yeah, it is.

Do you like it?

Don't ask me that.


Because it's not my job to make you feel good about yourself anymore.


Look at how life has drived away

My sweet love is gone away

My sweet love is gone today

My sweet love is gone away now

Mm-hmm That'll be all for you?

Hmm? Anything else?

Oh, no, that's it.

That's a nice shirt.


Oh, my baby

Oh, my love

Oh, my baby, now

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm


[phone ringing]


Mm-hmm, mm-hmm

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm Hello?

Jesse Fisher?


It's your favorite Communist.

Professor Peter Hoberg?

Screw you. I'm not a Communist.

How you doing?

Oh, you know.

Listen, I don't want to take up too much of your time, but here's why I'm calling.

Ever since I announced that I was packing it in, it's funny, but this whole place has finally decided that they don't really hate me after all.

Now, I know Ohio is not as glamorous as New York, but they're throwing me a retirement dinner thing at the end of the month, and they asked me to invite any former students that might want to lie and say some nice things about me.

And since you're one of the great liars that I know...

When is it?

Weekend of the 25th.

You know, check your schedule.

Okay Checking now.

Uh, looks like I'd have to shift some things around, but yeah.

I'll be there.

[light instrumental music]


[laughs] Look at this.

How are you?


Jesse. Yeah, hi.

Hi, I'm David. This is Susan.

Hi. Hey.

Peter warned you that we'd be here?

He did. He did, yeah.


We're making him take care of us while we're here.

How was your drive?

It was good, yeah. Pleasant, actually.

Peter, Jesse's here!

So it's good to be back?

Yeah. Yeah, it's weird.

I drove up the hill.

I suddenly felt like I was seeing an ex-girlfriend or something.

The one that got away. Exactly.

Zibby loves it here so much, she gets sad to come home on breaks.


Sorry. Elizabeth, our daughter.

She's a sophomore. Ah.

She's in the improv group.

We came up to see one of her shows.

How was it'? Hilarious.

Uh, filthy but hilarious.

So how do you guys know Peter?

He was my camp counselor.

No way.

He made us sing pro-union songs around the campfire.

You must stand up for your brother

So you won't die for the man

Stand up for your brother so you won't die for- He never writes. He never calls.

On, hey.

Let me look at you.

Not bad.

Who's hungry?

I'm hungry. Okay, let's go.

We've got reservations.

Oh, man, 37 years.

Can you believe it?

Native New Yorker spends 37 years in a county where the tallest building's nine stories.

Oh, my. [chuckles]

How are you feeling about it all?

The retirement? Yeah.

Oh, I don't know.

Another year of faculty meetings, I'd throw myself off that nine-story building.

So how's the admissions game, buddy?

[mockingly] "How's the admissions game, buddy?"

Whoa, is that Professor Fairfield?


Wow, she looks fantastic!


What is she like? Is she cool?

She's definitely not warm.

I loved her British Romantic lit class.

She was, like, the beet teacher I had here.

She was, like, the second best teacher I had here.

[clears throat and whistles]


[chuckles] You are unbelievable.


Tell her how you feel.

I will.

Jesse, this is my daughter, Zibby.


Hi. Hello.

Peter, should we follow you?

If you think that's wise.

And he's like, "I had it up to here with America and its repressive, regressive, fascist," whatever.

I sound like that? That's how I sound?

You do. You sound like that.

And he gets up in front of the class.

He says, "I just-l couldn't take it anymore, so I picked up my life, and I moved to France."

This is being ludicrously misreported, by the way.

So I raised my hand.

I said, 'Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, Peter.

"You're telling us you got so angry at this country that you moved to France?"

And Peter says, "Yeah.

Well, I had a Fulbright."


Yeah, well, yeah, if I told you what this putz was like when he was here, he'd run out of the room crying.

That's probably true.

Well, what were you like when you were here?

I was very handsome, wasn't I?

Am I remembering that correctly?

No, I don't remember that.

But what I do remember is you being a real jerk to your parents on graduation weekend.

He didn't want to leave.

It's true.

And I blamed my parents, weirdly, all four of them.

Like it was their fault college was ending.

Don't do that to us.

No, I won't. She says that now.

So your parents told me you're in the improv group?


How's that?

It's the best. I love it.

What do you love about it?

Um, I think I love how terrifying it is and how you have to say "yes" to everything.

Uh, sorry, what does that mean?

Ifs, like, the only rule of improv.

You can never say "no."

You have to say "yes" and then add something.

Like, uh-like, look.

Um, okay, Mom, you and I have been wandering in the desert for days, and we're about to die, okay?

Okay Okay, and I say, "Hand me that lemonade."

So hand me that lemonade.

Jesus, Susan, hand her the goddamn lemonade.

Never mind.

Jesse, hand me that lemonade.

Thank you.


Sweet, just the way I like it.

I nailed this.


It doesn't make sense.

We're in the desert.

I mean, where would we get lemonade?

[indistinct conversations]

It's great seeing you guys.

So what was your major?

I was English with a minor in history, just to make sure I was fully unemployable.

Right. What about you?


I mean, not officially yet, 'cause my dad's not totally thrilled with the idea, so maybe also art history?

I'm just happy you go to class occasionally.

I thought maybe you just improvised all day long.


I mean, I do, I guess.

Have you ever thought about that?

About what?

How everything in life is basically improvised?

There's no script.

We're just making this up as we go.

That's true.

So yeah.

Well, improv is deep, man.

Well, we're about to head out. Oh.

Pleasure to meet you, Jesse. Yeah, yeah, you too.

Take care. Bye.

So I'll- I'll see you around, I guess.

Yeah, yeah, see you around. Okay.

It was nice to meet you.

Yeah, you too.

See you later. Okay, bye.

Enjoy college.

You wearing a tie tonight?


What can you say, really?

People get up and say all this great stuff about you.

You know, I'm thinking, 'Who in the hell are they talking about?"



It's just, where does the time go?

This seems impossible.

37 years.


There comes a time in a man's life when it hurts to do the math.



You know, I worry that I've been here so long that I'll be lousy being anyplace else.

Oh, well, I guess I'll find out very shortly.



Um, hey, thanks for the chicken.

It was a little cold, but still I...

Think nice thoughts about me when I'm gone, if you can.


No, they did it at Macalester.

I really think it could work here.

Well, it sounds great.

I tell you, let's talk about it on Monday.

Oh, sure.

Night, Jesse.

Yeah, good night.

It's a good idea, though.

[softly] It's a terrible idea.


Oh, what a disaster.

What-no, it was nice.

You're not half the liar you used to be.


You know, it really means a lot to me that you came out for this.

How could I miss it?

You're the second beet teacher I had here.

I'm serious.

I'm gonna take off.

Well, I'll come with you.

Oh, no, no, no, you stay.

I want to be alone for a bit.

[light guitar music]

[insects chirping]

I feel you, man.

A lot of information in trees.


How's your night going?


Is your name...


No. Why?

You look like an Ethan to me.

My name's not Ethan.

How cool would that have been if that was your name and I just, like... [snaps fingers]

Knew it?

Are you a student here?

Uh, no, but thank you for thinking that.


Nah, man.

I'm just here visiting a buddy of mine.

But it's not a bad place to kill a little time, huh?

I'm Nat.

I'm Jesse.

Do you hear that music, Ethan?

It sounds like a celebration.

I say we do a little sherlocking, find out where it's coming from and what's going on.

No- Don't say no.

Fortune never smiles on those who say no.

[clicks tongue]

[lively music]

Everybody get on the floor

Everybody wanna uh-uh-uh

Everybody get on the floor

Everybody wanna uh-uh-uh

Everybody get... I would get you a beer, but alcohol's for suckers, man.

Uh, yeah.

Listen, Nat, this isn't really my scene anymore.

I'm gonna-

Give yourself five minutes to adapt, my brother.

Change is never easy.

[woman laughs]

Tell me this.

What are your thoughts on crop circles?

Uh, I don't have any.

There's some seriously weird shit going on, bro.

You think it's just a bunch of drunk English guys with planks and rope?

You're a fool- Mm-hmm.

Spend some time with those patterns.

You can feel it.

Something's trying to communicate with us.

It should be on the front page of every paper every day.

Okay. Thanks.


I thought that was you.

Hi. Howard you end up here?

He made a friend.

Yeah, yeah, I-yeah.

Look at you.

You're, like, back in college.


How does it feel?


Oh, this is Vanessa.

Hey. Hi.

I'm Nat. Hey.

Jesse's an alum.

We had brunch this morning.

I think my mom has a little crush on him.

You went here?

I did, yeah.

When'd you graduate?

Oh, man, it was, uh, the '90s.


That was when we were born.

Yeah, yeah.

I'm old.

But you look good.

And you're overdressed.

Hotter, sweeter, taller... That's better.

Hotter, sweeter Why do I like this guy so much?

Because he's likable.

Hey, let's get you guys some drinks.

Yeah, no, I think I'm gonna- I'm gonna take off.

No, you should stay.

No, really, I should go.

Do you drink coffee? Yeah.

What? That's crazy.

So does my friend here.

You two, tomorrow.

Shoop! Coffee.

Yeah, I could do that. You want to?

Um, I-yeah, uh, yeah.

That'd be-that's great.

9:00 okay?



Oh, you're serious.

Is 11:30 okay?

Yeah, that works.

Okay I-Hey Hi.

Can we talk?

Yeah. Yeah, sure, okay.

See you tomorrow?

Yeah, yeah. See you then.

Okay Hey, Vanessa.

Don't sweat that guy.

She only had eyes for you.

Okay Good night, Nat.

Good night, Ethan.

[claps hands]

[birds chirping]

Can I help you?


I just- just the best book of all time.

I just like holding it, I guess.

Best book of all time?

Well, one of them, sure.

Have you ever noticed how everyone around here speaks in wild hyperbole?

Everything's the best.

Like, "He's the best professor ever," or, 'This is the best petty melt on the planet," as if they've sampled every possible variety of professor and patty melt, which is, as we know, logistically impossible.


All right, do we have enough time for that?

[indistinct conversations]

- Hey -Hey Am I super late?

Uh, no. You want a coffee?

No, I'll just drink yours.

You okay?

I don't know yet.

I smell like beer. Do you smell that?

Yeah, actually, you do.

L-l need to excuse myself just- just for a-

Sorry about that.

Back there.

You walked away, and I was just wondering why I was being rude to someone who loves the same writer I do.

And I don't have an answer for that.

Okay Okay, so yeah, um, I'll just My grades tanked senior year.

That book was the only thing I wanted to read.

You liking it?

Uh, yeah.

It's my second time reading it, actually.


That's impressive.

It's not short.

Yeah, I know.

You know, he said the purpose of fiction was to combat loneliness.

That's good.

I never heard that.


Well, on the other hand, spending most of your time with an 1,100-page book tends to put a dent in your social life.


Loneliness simultaneously increased and decreased.

Hey What, you guys know each other?

Yeah, we had Symbolic Logic first semester.


Right. Dean, hi.

Hey. I'm Jesse, by the way.



Interesting guy.


I can't believe he's even back here.

Why? What do you mean?

He had a manic episode last year.

Eventually, they took him to a hospital and, I don't know, calmed him down, I guess.

He's supposed to be, like, the smartest guy ever.

Everything okay?

Yeah, everything's great.

[whispers] I puked.


That's gross.

Sorry, you did not need to hear that.

Come on, let's-let's walk.

My parents really liked you.

Oh. That's nice.

I like them.

You're really lucky to have parents like that.

Like what?

Like, I don't know.

Around, first of all.

Still together so they can fret over you as a team.

Yeah, I guess.

I like them best when they're not being so parental, which is, like, 1% of the time.

Oh, I thought of this great trick for having them annoy me less.

Want to hear it? Okay.

Okay, I decided to treat my parents like they're always drunk.

[laughs] No, really, it works.

Any time they say something irritating or offensive, I'm just like, "Oh, I can't get mad at them.

They're drunk. It's not their fault."

And why should I take advice from drunk people seriously?

That's great.

Do you like classical music?

Yeah, sure.

Okay, I took this music survey class last year.

Oh, my God!

It totally changed my life.

I'm really happy I ran into you last night.

Yeah, yeah, me too.

It's random.

Who was that guy?

What guy?

The-last night, that guy.

Oh, his name is Eric.


Is Eric your fella?

[laughs] No.


You know, I think I like almost everything about this place but the dude situation.

Not great?

No one, like, dates.

Everyone's so casual about it all.

Same as when I was here.


I guess there's part of me that's a little old-fashioned.

Well, on behalf of all current and former 18- to 22-year-olds, I'd like to apologize.

Forgive us.


We know not what we do.


I think one of the things I loved the most about being here was the feeling that anything was possible.

It's just infinite choices ahead of you.

You'd get out of school, and anything could happen.

And then you do get out, and... life happens, you know?

Decisions get made.

And then all those many choices you had in front of you are no longer really there.

At a certain point, you just got to go, "Oh, I guess this is how it's going down."

And there's just something a little depressing about that.

Well, don't you think you're romanticizing youth a bit much?

You know, 'cause it's just as hard and annoying to be young as it is to be old, I'm assuming.

Not that you're old, 'cause, you know, you're not.

Look, I get the whole "we're all equal" argument, and it's kind of true, but it's also kind of not true.

Like, okay, I feel different now than I felt when I was here, and I hate to break this to you, but so will you.

So you're saying things suck?

I should prepare myself for suckiness?

No, a liberal arts education solves all your problems.

Thank God!

Worth every penny.

We should hug.


I mean, we could keep talking, but I think it would be better if we hugged.

Come on.

Okay Okay. [laughs]

Who starts? I do.

Okay. Here we go.

God, so you were here a long time ago.

Whoa, okay.

I mean- Enough, enough.


That's-l mean, I just mean because I thought, with the greenhouses...

Hey, before you go, I thought you might like these, 'cause I don't really need 'em anymore and, uh, here.

Ooh. Look at this one.


Huh? No?


Oh, please, that's a great shirt.

You know the trouble I caused in this shirt?

I can only imagine.

You got no taste on top of everything else.

Oh, my God, what a beautiful shirt.

Not giving it to you anyway. All right.

Oh, it feels great!

[phone ringing]


Oh, hi.

No, no, he's-he's still here.

Yeah, hold on.

[clears throat]



You haven't left yet.

Uh, no. Good.

I need to see you before you go.

Will you meet me at the bookstore?

Say yes.



She's asking about a book I recommended.

- Hmm.

All right, I'm off. Okay.

Be a gentleman. Walk me to my car.

All right, all right.

Thanks for the shirts. I'll get them next time, okay?

Yeah, you'll be on the road, and you'll be saying, "Oh, maybe I'll call him up."

[door opens]

- Hey Hey Sorry, I don't want to hold you up or anything, but I, um-

I made this for you.

Burned it, whatever.

Um, it's music from the survey class I was telling you about.

Oh. Classical, baroque, opera.


This is great.

I know none of this.

Who says we always have to be listening to obscure indie bands, right?


So, um, yeah, I don't know.

This is all music I never thought I'd like or care about, and this class just- well, you know how you can be told something so many times and it's like, "Whatever," and then you have a great teacher take you through it, and suddenly it's like, "Beethoven, whoa."


This is really great. Thank you.

I wish I had come with something for you.

Well, you know what you could do?

You could write me a letter.

I could do that.

Handwritten, I mean, like with a pen or something.

Ooh. Yeah, paper.

Maybe seal it with some red wax.

I could listen to this while I'm writing.

Right, it'll be like full-on 17th century.

Right, right.

So, um, I don't have your address.

Oh, 108 is my P.0. box, and you can figure out the rest, right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

I also-l put my number on the inside of the case.

Yes, you did.

You know, in case you ever- whatever.

Yeah, right.


Well... Well...

Yeah. [laughs]

Bye. Bye.

Professor Fairfield.

Uh, Jesse Fisher.

I, um-

I took your British Romantic literature class when I was here as a student.

" And?

And I loved it.


Hey, Dean.

I know it's bad for you.

Just quit when you graduate, like everyone else.

Sweet ride.

You jerk.

It's a rental.

I'm not the best at flying.

I can understand that.

Where you headed?

Back to my dorm.

Get in. I'll give you a lift.

So you went here, right?

I did.

You liked it?

A lot.

I mean, you block out the bad memories- writing a senior thesis, February.

Yeah, February here sucks.

Yeah, it's horrible.

So other than February, things are good for you here?

I wouldn't say that.

You want to-you can tell me about it if you want.


Well, um, it's not exactly a secret Last year, I kind of, um, lost my mind a bit.

I don't really remember much of it, but apparently I got up to some pretty amusing antics.

So now they've got me on this pretty heavy stuff, which I guess allows me to function, but it also makes everything seem underwater, which is not as pleasant as it sounds.

Why'd you come back?

My mom's a nurse.

She raised me on her own.

I got a full ride.

She's... so proud I'm here.

Thanks for the lift.

[Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony playing]

"Dear Zibby, I can't thank you enough

"for introducing me to this music.

"Beyond just genuinely loving it, "I feel it's quietly altering my feeling about New York City, "with which I've always had

"a slightly conflicted relationship.

"I've found that if you replace the horns and the shouting

"with, say, Schubert or Telemann, "the city becomes unbearably beautiful.

"After years of thinly disguised rage on both our parts, "it's like the music has mediated a truce between us.

"Some early favorites.

"Massenet's Meditation.

"If a more beautiful piece of music has ever been composed, "I don't know it.

'That Brandenburg concerto is no joke, "and I echo your sentiment regarding Beethoven.


"I have no idea

"what the Vivaldi piece from Giustino is actually about, "but to me, it suggests deception, "some kind of elegant double-crossing.

"It makes me feel like I'm a double agent

"knee deep in some kind of sexy espionage.

[woman singing opera aria]

"I've decided the Wagner overture you included

"should come with a warning label.

"According to some quick online research, "the opera deals with the struggle

"between sacred and profane love, "which is arguably the only struggle there is.

"The other day, I was crossing the street, "lost in my head about something, "a not uncommon state of affairs.

"I was listening to the overture, "and as the music began to swell, "I suddenly realized that I had hands and legs and a torso

"and that I was surrounded by people and cars.

[dramatic classical music]

"it's hard to explain exactly what happened.

"But I felt in that moment that the divine, "however we may choose to define such a thing, "surely dwells as much in the concrete and taxicabs

"as it does in the rivers, lakes, and mountains.

"Grace, I realized, is neither time- nor place-dependent.

"All we need is the right soundtrack.

"I suppose this new infusion of music in my life is, "at the very least, making me reconsider my hostility to dead, white males."


"And I've you to thank for that.

"How's things, by the way?

Your friend, Jesse Fisher."

"Jesse, things is good.

"So happy you're loving the music.

"I felt my whole life got an upgrade

"when I took that class.

"The thing that floors me most

"is that human beings wrote that music.

"Are people writing music like that nowadays?

"If they are, I don't know about it.

"I hope you've fallen in love with the piece

"from Cosi fan tutte.

"I find that when I listen to it, for some reason, "everyone I see becomes instantly more attractive.

Please experiment with it and get back to me."

- Soave

Sia il vento

Tranquilla I'

Sia l'onda

Ed ogni



"Elizabeth, you were right about the Mozart piece.

"It somehow made everyone in New York look like

"a viable romantic partner.

"I can't escape it any longer.

"I think I like opera.

"You are never to tell anyone this, ever.



"Your opera secret is safe with me.

"I've been relistening to the music

"after each of your letters.

"I like hearing your take and then revisiting them.

"And even though Pennsylvania stands between us, "knowing we're hearing the same sounds

"makes me feel you are not all that far away.

"If I haven't been clear about this, I miss you.

"Hmm, don't really know why.

"I barely know you.

"By the way, handwritten letters?

"Greatest thing in the world.

Keep them coming."

"You asked why music like this isn't being written today.

"I wonder if these composers were expressing things musically that are too large for our current psychic state..."

"Anyway, all is fine here.

College continues colleging along..."

- "Massenet's Meditation, for instance, "and I worry that my nervous system is ill-equipped to contain such immensity of feeling."

"I bet if we went here at the same time, we'd have been great friends."

'Will this music be the death of me?

"If so, you'll have blood on your hands, Elizabeth.

Can you deal with that?"

"Jesse, as much as I love these letters, "I'd like to see you again.

"The sooner, the better.

"So come back here and see me.

'The dudes here continue to be 18 to 22 years old, "and they continue to act their age.

"I'd like a gentleman caller, and I'd like him to be you.

Ever yours, Zibby."

[head thuds]

[lively Baroque music]

"Dear Elizabeth, I've decided to take you up on your offer.

"I'll be getting in on the 14th and staying at the inn, but I will be available for walks, strolls, saunters, "ambles, and promenades.

"Looking forward to it.

Jesse Fisher."


[both speaking indistinctly]

So, Bob, um, I've been asking myself a lot of tough questions lately.

Everybody knows I made a whole stink about leaving this place, you know, how it's time-

How if you'd look back, you'd turn into a pillar of salt.

Yeah, all that. That's-


I think I may have spoken too soon.

I think-l think I still got a little gas in the tank is all.

L just-

Well, Peter, you have no bigger fan around here than me.

Thank you.

When you announced your plans, we were all sad to see you go, but you insisted that it was time.

Right, which I thought it was.

We hired someone, young guy out of UVA.

Very impressive candidate.

He was our first choice, actually.

We didn't think we would get him, but we did.

You said you wanted nothing to do with the search.

Right, right No, I-

I just-

I just didn't think it would move so fast.

Well, there was unanimous enthusiasm for the candidate, so things just moved along faster than normal.


Give me this one.

Peter, we can't.

The department has spent thousands of dollars on this search.

He's turned down other offers.

You know what goes into this sort of thing.

I hired you, Bob.

You don't have to tell me how this w-

And let me tell you, there was not unanimous enthusiasm for you back then.

It took a lot of arm-twisting on my part to get people to come around.

And now, 20 years later, the only reason that you're the chairman of this goddamn department is 'cause I loathe politics!

And you, for reasons which I cannot fathom, do not.

[clears throat]

In fact, you seem to have a real taste for it.



I'm asking-

I'm asking a favor.


Just give me this one, Bob, okay?

I need three more years.


I'm sorry.

There's nothing I can do.



On, hey.

Jesse, you remember Vanessa, right?

Uh, yeah, hi. You're back.


So I should- uh, yeah, I got some stuff to do.

So this is your room.

Yeah. Fancy, huh?


Forgot how small these are.

Good training for living in New York.

So are you gonna see Professor Hoberg while you're here?

You know, probably not.

Um... and, you know, if you- if you run into him, maybe don't mention that I'm here.

- Okay- Okay okay-

Do you want to sit?

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

So I should tell you, I feel a little weird about being here.

Why? Don't.

Well, I don't know if you know this, but, uh, I'm a few years older than you.

You are?

Just a few, yeah, and I'm not necessarily saying-

I don't want to get ahead of myself here.

It's just-

Oh, wait, sorry.

You-did you think this was, like, a romantic thing?

Just kidding.

Oh Come here.

Try not to overthink things, okay?

You're talking to the wrong guy.

Well, look.

We connect really well, don't you think?

We do, yeah.

I just can't figure out if it's because you're advanced or because I'm stunted.

It's because I'm advanced.


[whispers] But I'm also a little stunted.

Look, I want to take things slowly, okay?

Yeah, okay.

Me too. Me too.

But I would like to kiss you on your forehead.

Can I kiss you on your forehead?

Say yes.


And your chin?

May I kiss your chin?

[door opens]

Sorry. Hi, sorry.

Just need to grab something.


[door closes]

Roommates. [laughs]

Can we-are you hungry?

I could eat.


Maybe we could go into town and grab something?

That'll take too long.

I have class at 2:00.


But I know a place that's good and even closer.

Hey, Dean.

You get a job here?

I wish.

Hey, I seem to have lost my friend.

You mind if I...

What are you working on?

Yeah, it's this... novel.

Good for you.

I guess.

You happy with it?

Not really.

How you been'? Any better'?


I kind of just wish this would all be over as soon as possible.

Why did you love it here so much?

It's the only time you get to do this, you know?

You get to sit around and read books all day, have really great conversations about ideas.

People out in the world, they're not really doing that.

Think about it.

You could go up to everyone here and say, "I'm a poet," and no one will punch you in the face.

I mean, that's something.


I get that.

I just can't get around the fact that I'm, like, aggressively unhappy here.



That's my number, if you ever want to talk.

[bell tolling]

[door opens]

Hey Hey

Please tell me this is Vanessa's.

Nope, that's mine.

Wait, you actually read this?


All of if?

YEP Unironically?

Very sincerely.

What is it with you girls and vampires?

What's it about?


No, what's it about?

[whispering] Vampires.

I don't understand. Is it good?


I mean, yeah. But no.

Well, then why read it?

'Cause I like it.

That's no reason to read something.

Why else would you read something?


Many amazing books in the world.

Why would you read this?

Okay, I hate this conversation.

Can we stop?

Wait, this is a trilogy, right?

I'm afraid to answer that.

You've read three of these?

Have you ever read one of them?

[chuckles] What do you think?

How can you hate something if you've never read it?

I mean, isn't that like what repressive regimes do?

You want to burn books you don't like?

You're right. You know what I'm gonna do?

I'm gonna read this book, all of it.

And then we can discuss it.

Right now? Yeah, why not?

I mean, how long can it take, really?

This is great, a little book club.


YUP See ya soon.

[cheerful classical music]

Oh, no, this isn't what it-

I'm reading it as a dare.

It's a bet, actually.

I loved your class!

Should I start?


Okay I liked it.

It was fun and stupid. Mm-hmm.

And it passed the time.

And it's not Tolstoy, but it's also not television.

And it made me happy.

Now you.

Thank you. Mm.

This... is the worst book ever written in English.

So there are worse books written in other languages?

Probably not, unless this book is translated into other languages.

[laughs] Okay, we really we don't need to do this.

No, please, let's.

I need to know how you read these- whew, I guess you call them sentences- close the book, and feel anything other than offended and sad?

Well, millions of people like it.

So when millions of people like something, that means it's good?

No, it means millions of people like it.

These books make people happy.

We don't always have to be thinking about poli-sci or reading Chaucer, which, by the way, I hated.

You're not supposed to like it.

But then why read it?

You love college so much, right?

Isn't it all about understanding different points of view?

It's also about developing taste.

That was snobby. You're a snob.

No, I'm not.

Yes, you are.

You think it's cool to hate things.

And it's not. It's boring.

Talk about what you love, and keep quiet about what you don't.

Look, I know how this sounds, but trust me.

This is a big deal, okay?

This country is in bad shape, and it has to do, in large part, I think, with people liking things that are very, very bad.

But according to you.

Why are you the one who gets to decide what's good and bad?

And do you only want to surround yourself with people who've read the same books as you?

I guess we're gonna have to move on to a specific example-

Where are you?

What do you mean?

I mean, you are somewhere, but it's not here.

No, I'm-I'm here.

So why are we spending all our time having a stupid argument about a book?

Hey, Peter.





What the hell are you doing here?

' [sighs]

I don't know.

You know how old I am?

No, how old are you?

It's none of your goddamn business.

Do you know how old I feel like I am?


Since I was 19, I have never felt not 19.

But I shave my face, and I look in the mirror, and I'm forced to say, "This is not a 19-year-old staring back at me."


Teaching here all these years, I've had to be very clear with myself that even though I'm surrounded by 19-year-olds And I may have felt 19, I'm not 19 anymore.

You follow me?


Nobody feels like an adult.

It's the world's dirty secret.

How perfect is the universe?

You're still here?

Lucky for you.

'Cause you look like you could use a friend.

Did you know there's so many preservatives in the food we eat that they're finding it's taking longer for our bodies to decompose once we die?

No way. Really?

Preservatives, man. It's messed up.

Want some good news?


Caterpillars- give me my hat.

They're just scouting along, right, being caterpillars.

At some point, these cells show up called imaginal cells.

Scientists don't know where they come from or why they appear, but these imaginal cells show up inside the caterpillar and say, "Get psyched, caterpillar!

It's butterfly-turning-into time."


And what do all the other caterpillar cells do when these imaginal cells show up?

I have no idea.

They attack 'em!

Try to kill 'em!

They're like, "Screw you, imaginal cells.

'We're happy being a caterpillar.

Get lost! "

But eventually, the imaginal cells keep growing and overtake the destiny of the caterpillar and will it into this cocoon.

And then guess what happens next.

The caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

The caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

That's awesome.

I know it is!

Yeah, that's good.

And that is why there is no reason to be afraid, because everything is okay.

Yeah, I don't know if I believe that.

It has to be true.

There can be no other way.

You know, I'm not even sure if you're real.

[laughs] I mean, seriously.

It's all true, brother.

Whatever you believe.

What is that?

What are you drinking?

H to the 2 to the O.

You should have some.

Got to stay hydrated.

All right.

Oh, thanks.


[imitates machinery whirring]



You with me, bro?

[exhales] Yeah.

I like you, Nat.

Thanks for being my friend.

Easiest thing in the world.

I enjoyed this.

I'm off.

You go get her, man.



Be love, man.

Be love!

[whispering indistinctly]


You seem happy.


What happened?

I don't know. [both laugh]


Can I tell you some things?

Yeah, yeah, sure.

Okay, well, except for the book thing, which was genuinely super annoying, I-I feel really good about you.

It's been a while since I felt that way about someone.

And I like it.

Yeah, me too.

I want you to stay here with me tonight.

You have a roommate.

She's sleeping elsewhere.


So will you stay here?



But I have to tell you something.

Um... this-it would be my, um... first time.

But I want to.

With you.

Okay, um...

I have to- hold on.

I'll-I'll be back in a second, okay?


[door opens and closes]

I should never have told you that.

No, no, it's good.

I'm-I'm glad you did.

So is that a problem?

Well, yeah, it is.



Okay, well, first of all, I'm 35.

You don't look it. Thank you.

Plus, it doesn't bother me.

Well, it bothers me.

Well, it shouldn't.

Age is a stupid thing to obsess over.

What if reincarnation is real, huh?

Think about that.

What if I'm, like, thousands of years older than you?

Okay, that's not really a sound argument.

Why not?

Because it's like saying, 'What if reality is all an illusion?"

Then there are no consequences to anything.

We're completely off the hook.

And I believe in consequences.

No, you believe in guilt.


But guilt before we act is called morality.

' [scoffs]

Why did you come back here?

To see you, but I didn't know that you-

Why should that matter'?

I mean, isn't it, I don't know, flattering?



Sex is really complicated, okay?

I didn't quite understand that when I was younger, but I do now.

Okay, look, I didn't sign one of those contracts when I was in high school, okay?

I'm not a prude or whatever.

It's just, I never met anyone that I trusted or even liked enough until now.

I can't.

Are you not attracted to me?

No. I mean, yes, I am.

It's just.

I also care about you a lot already, somehow.

So, um, essentially, you don't want to sleep with me because you like and respect me too much.



That's, like, the saddest thing ever.

Look, I want to be in your life.

I do.

Yeah, I already have an older brother, okay?

And I don't need some mentor.

I can't just say yes to everything.


Stop calling me that.


No one calls me that.

You need to leave right now.

I'm really upset, and you need to go.


Get out!

[door closes]

[blues music]

- I've got a right to lose my mind

Since... Well, well, well.

- Since you left me here Now I remember you.

You do?

Not really.

- I stumbled

On a new world Rough clay?


"Mock on. Mock on.

"'Tis all in vain.

"You throw the sand against the wind, and the wind blows it back again."



- And the life

And the life I'm living French fries.

I was just about to order a basket.

- To lose my mind

- I've got a right to lose my mind

[hip-hop music blaring]

Hey Can you get me a beer?

Yeah, have mine.


Of course, I'm thrilled.

Newly minted PhD.

I'm feeling very fancy and officially teaching Ode on a Grecian Urn for the first time.

It's like heaven, right?

Right Right, fight, right.

And I decide to be a little dramatic.

I'm really gonna go for it and just recite the whole thing out loud.

What the hell, right?


And it's going very well, if I do say so myself.

And as I reach the immortal final lines of one of the great poems ever written in English, I hear myself say the following:

"Beauth is trudy, trudy beauth."


"That is all ye know on Earth and all ye need know."

That is great.

Great story.

When did you fall for the Romantics?

Was it, like- I'm just curious, but was it in college or grad school?

'Cause I knew almost nothing about those guys before your class.

Your class.

Ooh, I can gush, right?

I mean, I still think about it.

It's just-


You're very enthusiastic.

I guess.

I have a car.

Okay I would like for you to get in it with me, and I would like to drive us somewhere.


Don't worry about the fries.

They know me here.

[hip-hop music]

Yo, Eric, what's up?

Oh, hey, man.


Okay, you got to go-


Out Go, now.

Ow! Are you serious?


Yeah, I don't have to, uh, stay the night or anything, but could I-could I at least catch my breath?


How long do you think that'll be?


What? No, no.

It's just funny to me all of a sudden.

What about it is amusing to you?

Your post-coital cigarette, for one, is amusing to me.

What, you never smoked?

No, I did. But you quit.

Yeah. Pussy.

Okay, you are the same Judith Fairfield I took British Romantic literature from?

"From whom I took British Romantic literature," and yes, that's me.

But just because we screwed, don't assume we're suddenly- what is it you kids say nowadays?


Yeah, that's not really-

I mean, what do we really know about each other?

You're a nonsmoker. Congratulations.

You're going to live to be a hundred.

But what does it matter if your life is joyless?

And it will be. Trust me.

What's happening here?

You're getting your clothes and you're leaving, and I'm going to take an Ambien.

No, I meant, what is hap-

I mean, seriously.

You weren't thinking we were gonna cuddle the rest of the night as I read you Wordsworth?

Not anymore.


I've taught at this school for over 20 years.

I've seen the emergence of your kind like an infection- all these effete, overarticulate man-boys who never learned to toughen up.

Don't be one of them.

Go work with your hands.

Build something.

Punch someone in the face.


Too bad Norman Mailer's dead.

You guys would have been perfect for each other.

Shall I count to ten?

Wait, just, can- hold on just one second, okay?

You don't seem very happy.


Your powers of deduction are stunning.

You must have gone to a very good college.

I'm just confused how-

I mean, you're a tenured professor in one of the most prestigious English departments in the country.

That's not fulfilling?

Sit through a faculty meeting at a liberal arts college, Mr. Young Person.

I assure you, you will lose all faith in humanity.

Okay, but what about the classroom?

There had to have been some joy there.

I mean, you were such a good teacher.

Thank you.

I like to teach.

I used to love it.

What happened?

Life happened.

Okay, I'm gonna need a little bit more.

Well, that's all you're gonna get.

Unlike you, I'm not from the "let me tell you every sick, sordid detail of my life" generation.

I value discretion.

I loathe self-pity.

So let's just leave it at this: people are disappointing.

Yeah, it's just, I would think-

Don't get comfortable. Sorry.

I would just think that spending so much time with those poems would make you more, you know, optimistic and hopeful.


They were miserable men who were granted a few moments of transcendence, and they had the talent and foresight to grab pen and paper and write it down.

Byron was probably the happiest of the lot, only because he put his dick in everything.

This is the saddest evening of my life.

Get used to it.

My advice to you is this: put some armor around that gooey little heart of yours.

Well, at least I appreciate the irony.

I just had the least romantic night of my life with a Romantics professor.

For what it's worth, I meant everything I said about your class.

It opened something in me, and I'm grateful for it.

And if my heart is gooey, you're at least partially responsible for that.

So you're still uninspired by admissions.

Yeah, pretty much.

No little Jesse Fishers out there?

Well, if there are, I'm not meeting them.

Well, maybe you're just not recognizing them.


I do appreciate you coming by.

I really do.

It's great to see you one last time before I get the hell out of here.

You feeling any better about things?

Well, I tried to turn the clock back.

Here's a tip: it doesn't work.

No, it doesn't.

Now I just-

I keep waiting to feel more resolve somehow.

What if I'm like one of those prisoners that gets paroled and finds he can't handle life on the outside so he commits a petty crime so he can go back to what he knows?

You think this place is a prison?

Well, any place you don't leave is a prison.

Well, whatever.

Okay Okay l-Hey-

You know why you're my second favorite professor of all time?

I have no idea.

Because you had us read books by authors you hated.

Feel good about what you did here.

Thank you.

Get in your car now, and leave me be.

"Dear Zibby, even after all these months, "I'm still half-expecting a letter from you

"to be sitting in my mailbox.

"I'm sure you have little left to say to me at this point, "but your letters are very much missed.

"I know I hurt you, and I'm sorry.

"Any bone-headed moves I made

"were born of confusion and not malice.

"That said, I've been feeling lately the stirrings

"of something I can only call growth.

"It's a tribute of sorts to say that someone 16 years my junior

"helped me finally start acting my age.

"A wise man in a red hat once told me, "Everything is okay.

"I didn't believe him then, but for some reason, I'm starting to."

[bell dings]

Sorry, we're closed!


-Hey Hi.

Are you here for this?

I always notice you reading it when you're in here.


Any bookstore I'm in, I have to read the... both: Last three pages.

I know. They're devastating.


I'm Jesse.

Okay, I'm Ana.

Hi. Hi.

I love books.

I do in, like, the dorkiest way possible.

Oh, me too.

It's a problem.

Like, I love trees 'cause they give us books.

It's super cool of the trees to do that, right?

I'm actually- this is weird.

I'm actually trying to read less.


I felt like I wasn't watching enough television.


No, I just-l started to feel like reading about life was taking time away from actually living life, so I'm trying to, like, accept invitations to things, say "hi" to the world a little more.

That sounds scary.

It's going well?


Most of the time when I'm out, I keep thinking I'd be so much happier in bed with a book, and that makes me feel not super cool.

I still read tons.

I just feel like I'm more aware of a book's limitations.

Does that make sense?

Yeah, totally.

How am I doing here?

What? Here in this conversation?


Very well. You are doing great

So you maybe want to get away from these books and walk somewhere?

Yeah, okay.

Really? Sure, let's do it.

Great. Great.

And feel free to invite your husband or boyfriend.

They're both pretty busy right now, so...

Probably just be us, then.

Yeah. Just us.

[soft classical music]

[phone ringing]


Oh, hi.

It's Dean.

Franzen? We like the same writer.

Right, hey. Dean, what's up?

Uh, you gave me your number, and you told me to call you.

Uh, yeah. No, ifs good to hear from you.

How are you doing?

Uh, I'm pretty good, yeah.

Things, um-

I've been-


I just took a bunch of pills.


I just took a lot of pills.

How many?

I don't know. Um...

I'm really scared.

Where are you? In my dorm.

Stay-stay there, okay?

Stay right there.

Okay, yeah, just stay ri- I'm gonna make a call, and I'm gonna call-

I need you to stay by the phone, though, okay?


[sirens wailing]

- Miss Hanson to reception area, please.

Miss Hanson.

Hey Hey, man.

How you feeling?

Kind of ridiculous.

You didn't have to drive all the way out here.

I flew, you bastard.


For picking up the phone.

I didn't know who else to call.

Can I make a suggestion?


Stop reading this.


Because he killed himself, and you're not gonna do that.

You need to read something else.

Listen, don't be a genius who dies young.

Be one who dies old.

Being old is cool.

Grow old and die old.

It's a better arc.

Listen to me, man.

This right now, all this stuff you're feeling, this is a footnote, okay?

You're gonna graduate, and you're gonna get out in the world and stumble into something like contentment.

I know it.

Is that how it's been for you?

Hell, no.


But some days are all right, you know?

Some days are like a gift, and some days suck.

But all of that's okay.

So I'm taking you off post-modernists.


What are you prescribing?

There are these vampire books.

The kids love 'em.

Trust me, they will empty your mind completely.

Why are you being so nice to me?

You flew all the way back here to see me, and we had, like, two conversations.

I have a soft spot for good readers.

They're hard to find these days.


I really did miss you.

You know, we had this thing happening, and it was so exciting, and then you were just gone.

But it's okay now.

I get it.

I sometimes feel like I'm looking down on myself, like there's this older, wiser me watching over this 19-year-old rough draft who's full of all this potential but has to live more to catch up with that other self somehow.


I know I'll get there.

It's just sometimes I think I want to rush the process, you know?

And I don't know.

Maybe-maybe I thought you were some sort of shortcut.

Does that make any sense?

If I wrote you, I would be like, "This is the best rough draft ever."


[door opens]


[door closes]


Well, I should get back to adulthood.


See you there soon, I guess.

Okay Bye, Zibby.

Bye, Jesse.

[Zefiro torna by Monteverdi plays]

You're so beautiful and fascinating and age-appropriate.


Oh, nothing.

Torna Torna

Zefiro Torna, torna Torna, zefiro both: Ze... Firo torna


E di soavi accenti L'aer fa grato both: E di soavi accenti...

Look, you're getting wise.

I'm getting old.

Not the same thing. I say you're getting wise.

You worry about getting old?

I think being old's gonna be okay.

It's just the getting there that kicks your ass, you know?

You're gonna be a great old guy.

Really? Mm-hmm.

I feel like thats the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me.

Unless it's a criticism, like, "You're already judgmental and racist.

You're gonna be a great old guy."

No, I mean you'll wear baggy pants, and you'll have a little belly.

And when you want more coffee, you'll say to the waitress, "Could you warm this up for me, dear?“ You're right.

I will say that.

I think you're gonna be a great old person too.


I want to be an old lady with long, gray hair in a ponytail.

I can see it.

You're still foxy. You still got it.

That's what they're gonna say about you.

"She's still got it."

They're saying it now.


And I want a really, really wrinkly face.

A small house, maybe by some water.

I think getting old could be really nice.

[light piano music]

End of the day on the subway

In my ear

Along the way, the headphones play

I can hear you

You're my favorite song

I want to sing it again

You're my favorite song

Sing it to you, yeah

Stuck in my head, replaying again

I don't mind

Stuck in my heart, finish to start

It's all right I'

'Cause you are my favorite song

I want to sing it again

You're my favorite song

Sing it to you, yeah

Into it, into it

With you, yeah, I'm into it

Into it, into it

Yes, lam


You're my favorite song

I want to sing it again

Into it, into it I'

You're my favorite song

I want to sing it again

Into it, into it I'

You're my favorite song

I want to sing it again

Into it, into it I'

You're my favorite song

Sing it to you

There are lots of men

At Wesleyan and Case and OSU

While some are down at Oberlin and at Reserve, a few

They are fat or thin or young or old

And white or black or tan

But not a one can be compared

To a really Kenyon man

I want a Kenyon man

Just a Kenyon man

You can't beat a Kenyon man

You can't beat a Kenyon man

I have one, but he's my brother

So I'd like to have another

I want a Kenyon man

Oh, sometimes Harcourt gets so slow

I'm almost tired of life

There's not a man but Gordon who

Already has a wife

I look out toward our Middle Path

And all the space to span

For there I see what most I want

A really Kenyon man

I want a Kenyon man

Just a Kenyon man

You can't beat a Kenyon man

You can't beat a Kenyon man

I have one, but he's my brother

So I'd like to have another

I want a Kenyon man

On Saturdays, to Benson Field I go with all the rest

A baseball game I think is grand

I always cheer my best

It makes no difference

If I don't know who is winning man

I know the fellows that I see

Are really Kenyon men

I want a Kenyon

Just a Kenyon man

You can't beat a Kenyon man

You can't beat a Kenyon man

I have one, but he's my brother

So I'd like to have another

I want a Kenyon man

A show or Greek concert sets

All Harcourt in a hum

And those who don't get picked

Can hunt their purses up and go

The entertainment matters not

We like them all for then

Rosse Hall is filled on every side

With really Kenyon men

I want a Kenyon man

Just a Kenyon man

You can't beat a Kenyon man

You can't beat a Kenyon man

I have one, but he's my brother

So I'd like to have another

I want a Kenyon man

A Kenyon man