Faith and Sweet Liberty

Today America celebrates its independence. Honestly, between the embarrassing and dangerous totalitarian tyrant in the White House and the coronavirus spreading like wildfire through the heartland and Deep South, there isn’t much to celebrate these days.

So let’s celebrate something we can all get behind: Michelle Pfeiffer in Alan Alda’s largely forgotten midlife crisis film Sweet Liberty (1986). Pfeiffer’s role is small in terms of screen time but her character, appropriately named Faith, provides Alda’s scholarly writer Michael with all the inspiration he needs to snap himself out of his small college town slumber. Faith is an actress in the film based on Michael’s Revolutionary War book, which is being shot on location in North Carolina, where Michael lives.

The film explores relationships—between love interests, professional acquaintances, and parents and children—with sensitivity and humor. It’s a low key film that leaves a minor impression, likely why it hasn’t been remembered with regularity in today’s internet age of short attention spans.

There are hidden treasures to he found within its running time, though, chiefly among them Pfeiffer’s beautiful, incandescent performance. Faith is first seen through Michael’s infatuation with her stunning beauty. He and we soon learn there’s an introspective, world-weary woman underneath that beautiful exterior. She’s trying to figure out her career within an industry that only places value on her looks—which is exactly where Pfeiffer was in her own career in 1986. Every article or review focused on her looks, ignoring what an impressive resume she was building throughout the 1980s. Soon enough, with The Witches of Eastwick, (1987), Married to the Mob (1988), and Dangerous Liaisons (1988) she would prove to those largely male critics that she was was far more than just a pretty face; indeed, she was a truly gifted performer.

So, this Independence Day I’m celebrating Pfeiffer’s Faith, an independent spirit and the first thing that comes to mind every time I hear the phrase “sweet liberty.” I’m keeping the Faith, even in these difficult times.

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