Monday, April 6, 2009

Sweet Liberty (1986)

Written, directed, and starred in by Alan Alda, Sweet Liberty (1986) is an enjoyable little movie about making a movie. Alda plays a history professor whose book on the American Revolution is to be made into a movie on location in the historic town where he lives and teaches. Naturally the locals are thrilled, especially the local troop of Revolutionary re-enactors who will play the American soldiers. They, and Alda, are dismayed to learn that historical accuracy is a low priority for the film's director, played by Saul Rubinek. He puts it succinctly to Alda: the target audience, ages 12-22, like to see three things in a movie. They want to see authority defied, property destroyed, and people's clothing removed. The director will get what he wants in an unusual way before the movie ends.

There is also a love story between Alda and a fellow professor; while they are "on a break," each gets involved with one of the film's stars (Michael Caine and Michelle Pfeiffer), but those involvements prove ultimately unsatisfying. Another subplot involves Lillian Gish as Alda's mother, and appears to have been written in merely to give Alda the opportunity to act with this screen legend, whose first films were released in 1912. Death-defying feats (mostly by Michael Caine), slapstick comedy, and a jaundiced eye cast at Hollywood recur throughout the film. It was an enjoyable way to spend a little less than two hours, and most likely better than anything that was on network TV that night. I don't think you should go out of your way to see it, though.

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