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"Michael Burgess wrote a book about the American Revolution. Now, Hollywood's come to his town to make a movie of it -- Plunging him into a summer of madness."
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.Michael's 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 must also deal with his ancient mother Cecilia (Lillian Gish) and his girlfriend Gretchen (Lise Hilboldt). 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 (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.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.
DVD : 2004-11-23