The great Alan Alda is a talented and interesting man. An actor, writer, director, comedian and novelist it would appear that there is nothing Alda can’t do. Alda has a slew of acting credits to his name, from Mash (the television show) to being a regular member of Woody Allen’s stock company. Alda is usually cast as a laid back and eccentric wit, sort of like a cross between Woody Allen, Billy Murray and Chevy Chase.
In the 1986 film, Sweet Liberty Alda plays to type as Michael Burgess, a university lecturer who has written a book on the American Revolution. When the book is made into a film the cast and crew descend on the small town causing chaos. There’s just one small problem- the script for the film bares no resemblance to Burgess’ original book. Instead of historical epic, the film is a revolutionary sex-comedy. Burgess must team up with the film’s screen-writer (Bob Hoskins) to try and convince the stars (played by Michael Caine and Michelle Pfeiffer) that his original story has much more artistic resonance than the teen-aimed popcorn film that they are shooting. Along the way he falls for the films leading lady – leading to problems with his girlfriend.
Sweet Liberty is an enjoyable enough little film. It’s an amiable enough time waster, but it lacks any real bite. Like I said previously of Alda’s on screen persona, the film is a strange mix of Woody Allen style wordy comedy and a mid-80s Chevy Chase vehicle. It’s not bad, it’s just instantly forgettable.
The stand-out performance in the film is Michael Caine as Elliott James, the leading actor in the film within the film. Caine has tremendous fun with the role, which seems to be partly based on himself and Peter O’Toole. It’s a great part and the film really comes to life when he is on the screen. It’s a shame that he isn’t the main character. What makes this performance even more pleasurable is that the film was made in the mid-1980s when Caine had a tendency to phone in many of his performances.
Sweet Liberty is an amiable enough time waster. It’s recommended to fans of Alan Alda and Michael Caine. It’s far from bad, but it’s nothing outstanding. The main thing to recommend here is Michael Caine’s entertaining and over-the top performance.