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June 6, 2017 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The battle you never asked for: Chasing Liberty vs. First Daughter

A few weeks ago I watched two films from a very specific genre: films released in 2004 about the President’s teenage daughter who wants freedom. Indeed, I watched Chasing Liberty and First Daughter. So, naturally, I want to pit them against each other. This film genre is so specific you can’t not do this.

A few establishing details first. Chasing Liberty stars Mandy Moore as Alice, the 18-year old daughter of Mark Harmon’s President. It starts with a disastrous date that is ruined by her overprotective secret service detail, and results in her somewhat loosely running around Europe with the British Ben who, surprise, surprise, is also a secret service agent, but he’s played by Matthew Goode (in his “breakout role”) so it’s okay.

First Daughter goes in a completely different direction with Katie Holmes as Samantha, daughter of Michael Keaton’s President. She lives a sheltered life and dreams of simply driving off to college like a normal girl. Luckily, she gets to go to college, the fictional Redmond (that really looks a whole lot like UCLA) — but not without protection. She escapes said protection with her RA James but, surprise surprise, he’s secret service too.

So here we have two movies that have the same premise, but handle freedom in different ways. Samantha in First Daughter stays on American shores and within the confines of higher education while Anna lets herself loose on Europe in Chasing Liberty. To be honest, the latter absolutely throws reality not only out the window, but into the steaming sewer below. They literally go from Prague to Venice to Berlin with NO MONEY, and the guy who they stay with in Venice drives them to an Austrian country lane and then, and only then, drops them off in the middle of nowhere. Anna then proceeds to get on the back of a vegetable truck with two randos and she goes off by herself, leaving a worried Ben aghast. Bloody hell, if travelling around Europe was that cheap, safe, and easy, I would have booked a one way flight years ago. Yet, even with the restrictions of tertiary education, there is still room for First Daughter to play — Sam gets too drunk at a bar and too wet on a slip and slide. But I gotta say it, point to Chasing Liberty.

We have to consider the location. Film is a visual medium (in case you weren’t aware) and you gotta have something pretty to look at. Sorry SoCal, historic, picturesque, and beautiful Europe so obviously wins here.

Then there’s the matter of the cast and their performances. The three main categories are the President, his daughter, and her guy (unfortunately, the first ladies don’t have a whole lot to do in these films). Firstly, the Presidents: Mark Harmon is a wet pancake and Michael Keaton is an Oscar winner. Obvious. Katie Holmes vs. Mandy Moore is a little more difficult. Both were pretty big at the time — the former fresh out of Dawson’s Creek and the latter having been the mean girl in The Princess Diaries and the sick girl in A Walk to Remember (which, before looking it up, I had totally forgotten existed). They stick to their strengths. Mandy Moore lets her wild out (there’s a little too much screaming and high pitched yelping in the process) whereas Katie Holmes turns off the demure ever so slightly, only to end up at a (reasons unknown) white-tie ball. I’m giving this one to Chasing Liberty.

Finally, the love interests. First Daughter has James who is played by Marc Blucas. Nope, I’ve never heard of him either. At the time, from what I can gather, he was probably best known for his 31-episode stint on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I barely recognise anything else from his IMDb profile at the time. He’s also just pretty damn boring. Matthew Goode’s Ben, on the other hand — what a babe. Seriously, he’s British, got brown eyes you could drown in, and that attractive sort of wit. Sorry, you want me to flesh out this argument a little more? Not gonna happen, Chasing Liberty wins this hands down.

There are a few outliers I want to award points for as well. On the part of First Daughter, credit where credit is due for the role that is Mia, Sam’s roommate. She’s pretty cool. I also got a kick out of the sub-romance on Chasing Liberty. Upon re-watch with my newly feminist educated eyes I groaned repeatedly at how Alan (an amusing Jeremy Piven) constantly, to the point of irritation, hits on his secret service partner Cynthia. Yet as the film progresses she whips him into shape, he “tames his mop” and insists it has nothing to do with her, and they end up joking about getting new partners now that they can no longer work together while being romantically entangled. It’s an excellent addition to the film, and certainly one-ups its competitor.

To be perfectly frank, I can’t be bothered tallying up all the points (I failed STAT193 so I’d probably get it wrong anyway), but the winner definitely is CHASING LIBERTY. Reading this may have clued you into the fact that it was probably going to win all along right, but what’s that clichéd saying about the journey over the destination?

Matthew Goode, you’re welcome to take me on a free journey through Europe anytime, just loose the mid-2000s forearm sweatband first.


— @Lauralives


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