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Michael has written a schollarly book on the revolutionary war. He has sold the film rights. The arrival of the film crew seriously disrupts him as actors want to change their characters, directors want to re-stage battles, and he becomes very infatuated with Faith who will play the female lead in the movie. At the same time, he is fighting with his crazy mother who thinks the Devil lives in her kitchen, and his girlfriend who is talking about commitment. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
I had hoped to like this film a bit more than I did, and I certainly expected to laugh more. Sweet Liberty is an Alan Alda project through and through. In it, he plays a history professor whose historical novel is going to be made into a movie during one crazy summer in the little college town. Everyone is excited about the upcoming shoot, but Alda's excitement turns to disgust once the cast and crew arrive. He finally gets a look at the script and finds out that the movie will be sort of a sex comedy with little regard for historical accuracy. Alda then sets out with the screenwriter to try and convince the actors and director to film his own version. While all of this is going on, we sit through several arguments about Alda's relationship status with his girlfriend. We are also treated to the eccentricities of Alda's ancient mother played by legendary actress Lillian Gish. Overall, there is just too much going on, and the film never quite sustains any comedic momentum.
The film has some genuine strengths. The cast is an eclectic bunch of old stars, new faces, and genial nobodies. Alda and Michael Caine basically play themselves and do a very good job. Michelle Pfeiffer is not only beautiful as hell, but she also gives a strong early performance as the lead actress. Bob Hoskins' character is well-written, but he plays the man in too shrill of a manner to be taken seriously. His screenwriter character has some wonderful points to make about using flattery to get the attention of the actors and director if you want them to change what they are doing. But he is just so hyper that you cringe whenever you hear his voice. Saul Rubinek is good as the hotshot, pompous young director who is only out to show the audience three things: People defying authority, destruction of property, and people taking off their clothing. That's what industry research shows that younger audiences want, he informs Alda more than once.
There are other problems besides the annoying Hoskins character. I'm sure it would seem desirable for an icon like Lillian Gish to be included in just about any film at that time. However, her character and scenes are just not needed and end up being more of a distraction than anything else. Alda and his girlfriend have about the same argument at least half a dozen times. Another scene looks like it will give a huge laugh payoff, but it falls flat. In it, a group of stunt men are in a bar with some of the local re-creators of the Battle of Cowpens who will also be used as extras in the film. The stunt men are trying to tell the amateurs how to fall in the battle scene. One of the stunt men breaks out one of those harnesses that people use to get pulled backwards through doorways in bar fight scenes. And you think you are going to see one of the amateurs get unknowingly hooked up to it and taken for the ride of his life. But alas, they apparently thought it would be funnier for the guy just to fall down on his back like an idiot. Another missed opportunity! 5 of 10 stars.
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