Sweet Liberty

Sweet Liberty Information

Sweet Liberty (1986) is an American comedy film written and directed by Alan Alda, and starring Alda in the lead role, alongside Michael Caine and Michelle Pfeiffer, with support from Bob Hoskins, Lois Chiles, Lise Hilboldt, Lillian Gish, and Larry Shue.

It was the next-to-last film for Gish, whose first appearance on screen came in 1912.


College history professor Michael Burgess is about to have his fact-based historical novel about The American Revolution turned into a Hollywood motion picture being filmed in the North Carolina town where he lives.

Michael's book is being converted into a steamy tale of lust and betrayal with two movie stars, the egotistical lothario Elliott James and the seemingly sweet Method actress Faith Healy.

The excitement of having show-business people in town is short-lived when Michael becomes increasingly exasperated seeing his novel get mauled beyond all recognition by a low-brow scriptwriter and a condescending director. They want a Hollywood version of history, complete with rebellion against authority, violence, nudity and a total distortion of the truth.

While both stars argue for more screen time, Michael must also deal with his ancient mother Cecilia and his girlfriend Gretchen. He tries to be a supportive son to Cecilia, but has to tolerate her quirks such as a belief that TV radiation neutralizes her poisoned food and that the Devil lives in her kitchen. He has been trying to persuade Gretchen to live together, but cheats behind her back when he falls for Faith, finding her to be so much like the character she is portraying in the film.

Gretchen turns the tables, becoming receptive to the advances of Elliott James. The married actor is a swordsman in many ways, not only flirting with Gretchen and the Mayor's wife but humiliating Michael repeatedly in bouts of fencing.

Faith turns out to not be what she seems to be, merely behaving the way she does to get into character. Michael becomes fed up with all the Hollywood tomfoolery. When a local Revolutionary War reenactor company who was supposed to participate in a scene is subject to bullying from the film's crew, Michael persuades them to get back at their tormentors and ends up sabotaging his own film.

The locals cause explosions during a horribly inaccurate recreation of the Battle of Cowpens. Michael throws the arrogant director's own words back at him, that he is providing: (1.) Rebellion against authority, by Michael and the reenactor's refusal to do as ordered in battle; (2.) Violence, by blowing up a house before the director is ready, and (3.) Nudity, when all the men celebrate their onscreen victory by prancing around naked.

By the time the film's premiere is held in town, everything is pretty much back to normal for Michael, who comes to the premiere with Gretchen, who is pregnant. Michael can only respond with a strained look when he gets asked by a Hollywood correspondent how it feels to see history come alive.


  • Alan Alda as Michael Burgess
  • Michael Caine as Elliott James
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Faith Healy
  • Bob Hoskins as Stanley Gould
  • Lise Hilboldt as Gretchen Carlsen
  • Lillian Gish as Cecelia Burgess
  • Saul Rubinek as Bo Hodges
  • Lois Chiles as Leslie
  • Linda Thorson as Grace James

Critical reception

Sweet Liberty has a rating of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 12 critics' reviews.

The general consensus of critics was that the film lacked the satirical bite that might have been expected from a story about the Hollywood movie industry. Vincent Canby in the New York Times called it a "mildly satiric comedy so toothless it wouldn't even offend a mogul as sensitive and publicly pious as Louis B. Mayer," and sympathised with the actors as "severely limited by material that doesn't go anywhere."

Time Out described the film as "nearly as dull as it sounds, intermittently enlivened only by Hoskins and Caine, the latter effortlessly amusing as the production's leading man." Variety wrote that "comedic potential is too rarely realized." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times thought the film tried to "juggle a lot of characters all at once" and lamented that there was "more material than there was time to deal with it."

The majority of critical praise was reserved for the lead actors. Michael Caine was described variously as an "excellent comic actor," "the kind of charming cad you can never really hate for too long," and "such an accomplished actor that all he has to do is behave with self-assured grace." Michelle Pfeiffer was also highly-acclaimed for her dual role of "wonderfully subtle touches," described as getting "a chance to show that she has the potential to be a first-rate comedienne," and as the actress who "neatly tucks the movie into her bodice and saunters off with it."

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sweet_Liberty" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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