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May 16, 1986 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-05-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

32

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, May 16, 1986

THINK FUN IN THE SUN!

MORT AT THE MOVIES

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Alda's 'Sweet Liberty':
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Michelle Pfeiffer and Alan Alda in "Sweet Liberty."

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COMPLIMENTARY GIFT WRAPPING

Here comes Alan Alda in Sweet
Liberty (rated: PG). There hasn't
been such good clean sex in films
since Doris Day. Actually, Alda
is, in some ways, a male 1980s
version of Doris Day. He's attrac-
tive, wholesome, charming, and
so nice.
In this film, Alda pulls off what
few, other than he and Woody Al-
len, are able to do in Hollywood
these days. Alda is the writer, di-
rector and star of the vehicle.
I use the word "vehicle" ad-
visedly, for that ultimately is
what the film is — a vehicle to
display Alda's screen personna.
Now that's not all bad, for Alda
has one of the most appealing sc-
reen incarnations around today.
And he displays it with great suc-
cess in this latest effort.
Sweet Liberty is an extremely
slick, pat, highly commercial
romantic comedy. It's filled with
good humor, from beginning to
end, and there's absolutely noth-
ing in it to trouble your mind.
Maybe that's what vaguely trou-
bles me. To me, and countless
others, Alda represents the quin-
tessential "good guy." He stands
for what's right. With his success
and clout, Alda could make just
about any movie he wanted to
make.
I. wish he had elected to give
this movie a little more depth and
reality. The opportunity was
there to say something meaning-
ful about the emptiness and vul-
garity of so much of today's films.
But Alda doesn't do it.
The story is quite simple. Alda
plays a college professor who has
written a best-selling historical
novel about the Revolutionary
War. Hollywood has bought the
rights to the book and is turning
it into a film which is being made
in the small college town where
Alda teaches.
The plot conflict is between
Alda, who is trying to keep the
authenticity of his book intact in
the film, and the film's director,
who is out merely to make a
commercial success.
Sweet Liberty ends up trying to
have it both ways, for while Alda
gently shticks Hollywood for its
pandering ways, he makes this
film a conventional sitcom.
Maybe I shouldn't have started

with my dissatisfactions because
I did find the movie enjoyable
from beginning to end. It's
crafted with great commercial
skill, it moves along briskly, and
has lots of laughs. But it's slight.
There isn't much meat and after
it's all over, not much stays with
you.

My guess is that it will be a
great audience success, and
there's every reason for that, too.
The situation is interesting and
the characters are attractive.
Alda is good, as he always is.
Perhaps the character is getting
a little predictable, but most of
the great performers turn out
that way, like Jack Benny, for
example. Part of the reason we
love them is that we know the
personality so well. We wait and
watch to see how they will deal
with each new situation, given
the faults and foibles that are so
familiar to us.
Michael Caine is absolutely
marvelous as the leading man in
the film within the film. It's one
of his best roles. In my opinion,
he steals the show. He's got just
the right combination of flam-
boyance, eccentricity and mis-
cheviousness. We must credit
Alda, for part of this comes from
the writing and direction.
Michelle Pfeiffer is terrific as
the leading lady of the film that's
being made. She comes closest to
giving us a genuine characteriza-
tion, showing us what a real actor
is really like. We see how dedi-
cated she is to her art, how tough
and single-minded she can be,
how she can fight like a tigress,
and how she can transform her-
self into a delicate, ethereal, gen-
teel lady of American Revolution.
The character Pfeiffer plays, as
written and as she creates it,
brings to the film the quality I
wished permeated the entire
enterprise.
Lillian Gish has a strong sup-
porting role. In her incredible
eighth decade of film acting, Gish
still has the power to project a
unique, memorable character.
I wish Alda hadn't pictured her
in such a weird fashion in her
opening scene. With the extreme
close-up and the streaming white
hair she looked scary, like one of

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