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Chasing Liberty (Andy Cadiff, 2004)


      For those fully willing to embrace star power over narrative logic and serious intent, there are few better things going right now than the series of Mandy Moore vehicles coming out of Hollywood. After a surprisingly somber turn in the teen melodrama A Walk to Remember and a somewhat more mature role in the lighter romance How to Deal, Moore returns to the screen in her most cheerful starring role yet, playing the Presidentís daughter in the first of this yearís two first daughter films, Chasing Liberty. Less savvy filmgoers might find that the plot of the film, for all intents and purposes, mirrors last yearís nearly mirthless The Lizzie McGuire Movie, but it would be more aptly described as a modern mix of Roman Holiday and It Happened One Night. In it, perpetual screen virgin Moore finally does have sex, embraces rave culture, and skinny dips, all while somehow maintaining the decency and sweetness that have come to define her onscreen persona. Much like a slippery politician, Mandy Moore has an ability to make her transgressions slip away as soon as she turns up the charm. Sheís the sort of celebrity this country needs right now, goddamnit!


    When compared to her contemporaries, Moore conscientiously continues to tread a moral high ground through her Hollywood career, and although her character this time out is wilder than those sheís played in the past, thereís no mistaking her for one of the overly sexualized nymphets that usually lands a role like this. She has so much screen presence and obvious talent that itís a bit unfortunate that she hasnít yet found material that asks more of her. Still, Chasing Liberty is an opportunity to bask in its starís uniquely modest radiance, and for that Iím glad it exists. Moore not only brings a bubbly sense of enthusiasm to the movie, but also fully grasps the emotional journey her character undergoes and gives it weight. More than any teen diva Iíve seen, Moore has the ability to make the audience believe that the dilemmas that she faces are a true test of her good character. Her heartís calculations always play out on her face, and as a result, she remains endearing, even in her bad judgments. Moore seems forever balanced between solemnity and effervescence, giving tension to whatís, on paper, a routine script. Her everygirl appeal powers the endeavor, allowing it to appeal without much in the way of profanity or gross-out humor. Once again, Moore elevates middling material, pushing it to near-greatness through her wiles alone. In Chasing Liberty, one is reminded that teen exuberance need not intersect with cloying sentiment, that this brand of romantic comedy mostly depends on the appeal of its stars, and that Mandy Moore is an uncommonly gifted young talent.




Jeremy Heilman