Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sweet Liberty – Movie Review

Alan Alda is a highly-regarded entertainer. He has been featured in many performances, including his memorable role in MASH. His audience appeal has never faded.

I don’t find many movies set at the time of the American Revolution.

There is a minor movie, Sweet Liberty, made in 1986 by Alda, in which he acted and also wrote and directed. I heard a loose rule (at UCLA Extension) that in general a triple credit will guarantee the movie will not be outstanding. Different talent needs to be brought in. That’s probably what happened here, because Alda has not pulled the movie off successfully.

But its theme had potential. A college history professor writes a noted book about the American Revolution. His book is serious. Then the author hits the jackpot: a company is going to make a movie out of the book and come to town in South Carolina to film it.

But to the author’s increasing horror, the movie will not resemble his book at all. Instead, it will be a sexy spoof, relying on big box office draws (played by the reliable Michael Caine and Michelle Pfeiffer) to carry the action. Since the hometown has a Revolutionary reenactment, there are plenty of local extras (and their bright uniforms) waiting in the wings. For the production company, things look good. Everyone welcomes its arrival, including the governor. You’d expect this in a small town. It’s a big deal.

The script meanders; characters are introduced who really contribute nothing to the action. Even Caine, who is featured as a hopeless womanizer when off-screen, lacks sparkle. Some of his scenes are somewhat bizarre.

The author’s girlfriend plays it cute but trite. Their scenes together seem irritating. The dotty characterization of the author’s aged mother is superfluous and embarrassing.

I liked the portrayal of the townspeople, naïve and enthusiastic, overcome with the presence of celebrities.

Of all the characters, the director, sharply played by Saul Rubinek, gives the most style to his performance. One can completely decipher his mindset. For him, the author is an unfortunate human being who must be ignored at all costs; the actors are a bunch of temperamental, ignorant children; the townspeople / extras are a temporary affliction whose pesty suggestions are routinely dismissed with “I can’t use it”. The director just wants to be left alone.

Toward the end of the movie, the pace notably quickens. When the author unleashes his planned sabotage during shooting, the director is not defeated at all. He has placed additional cameras all over the set so the show will go on.

The cool, glamorous wife of Caine appears, and the hopeless Don Juan now is the appropriate husband of a wife who is totally in charge. Her small role is a very effective episode in the script.

The author’s girlfriend is glamorous and pregnant at the movie premiere. She has abandoned her feisty, independent personality. Not a highly original touch, but plausible.

As for the townspeople, they have the best time of all. Their fifteen minutes of fame are probably over, but they are not grieving. Their town will never be the same. They have awarded all their personal Oscars to Sweet Liberty. –Renata Breisacher Mulry

1776 – Movie Review from Friendsof1776.com
The Patriot – Movie Review from Friendsof1776.com



LoomisBooks.com Editor said...

Yeah, not a great movie. But still, it got me brushing up on the dreaded Tarleton and reviewing the course of the war in the South. Guess being a Revolutionary War period enthusiast carried this movie for me!

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