Michael has written a scholarly book on the revolutionary war. He has sold the film rights. The arrival of the film crew seriously disrupts him as actors want to change their characters, directors want to re-stage battles, and he becomes very infatuated with Faith who will play the female lead in the movie. At the same time, he is fighting with his crazy mother who thinks the Devil lives in her kitchen, and his girlfriend who is talking about commitment.
Sweet Liberty is a 1986 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 Gish’s penultimate film role; her first appearance on screen came in 1912.
About the Story
College history professor Michael Burgess (Alan Alda) 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. His book is being converted into a steamy tale of lust and betrayal with two movie stars, the egotistical lothario Elliott James (Michael Caine) and the seemingly sweet Method actress Faith Healy (Michelle Pfeiffer).
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 (Bob Hoskins) and a condescending director (Saul Rubinek). 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 deals with his mother Cecilia (Lillian Gish) and his girlfriend Gretchen (Lise Hilboldt). He tries to be a supportive son but has to tolerate Cecilia’s 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 with him, 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 (Lois Chiles) but humiliating Michael repeatedly in bouts of fencing. Elliott’s wife (Linda Thorson) also turns up, complicating matters further.
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 the men from a local Revolutionary War reenactor company who were supposed to participate in a scene are subject to bullying and mockery from the film’s crew, Michael persuades them to get back at their tormentors. He ends up deliberately sabotaging his own film.
Sweet Liberty (1986)
Directed by: Alan Alda
Starring: Alan Alda, Michael Caine, Michelle Pfeiffer, Bob Hoskins, Lise Hilboldt, Lillian Gish, Lois Chiles, Linda Thorson, Diana Agostini, Alvin Alexis
Screenplay by: Alan Alda
Production Design by: Ben Edwards
Cinematography by: Frank Tidy
Film Editing by: Michael Economou
Costume Design by: Jane Greenwood
Set Decoration by: Alan Hicks
Art Direction by: Christopher Nowak
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: May 14, 1986