Anna Foster, code-named “Liberty,” the daughter of the president of the United States, can’t get the Secret Service off her back when she goes on dates with boys. Accompanying her father on a state visit to Prague, she eludes her protectors and meets a handsome British boy, Ben Calder, with whom she embarks on a romantic journey across Europe. But there’s something she doesn’t know about Ben: He’s a Secret Service agent.
The far superior movie about the President’s daughter that came out in 2004, Chasing Liberty is the starting point for anyone looking to become a Matthew Goode fan. (Because all true fans will have already seen it.) Oh, and it has Mandy Moore and Jeremy Piven in it. And a very early 2000s European street party.
Mandy Moore as Anna Foster
2004 saw the release of both Chasing Liberty and Saved!, both featuring Miss Moore, and her prime as a double threat singer/actress. Anna Foster’s probably one of my favorite of Moore’s roles; I never liked her as a mean girl (à la Lana in The Princess Diaries) and I don’t watch This is Us because I like not sobbing through my TV shows. As Anna, Moore’s a pretty spot-on teenager: naive, entitled, prone to bad decisions, gullible when it comes to hot guys. As someone only one year removed from being a teenager themselves in 2004, I connected with her on a pretty deep level.
Matthew Goode as Ben Calder
And speaking of connecting on a deep level: I had a massive crush on Goode’s Ben Calder from the moment he appeared onscreen. That voice! Those eyes! That “I’m keeping a secret, but it’s for your own good, and although everything I’ve done is now tainted by said secret, these feelings are real, dangit” attitude! Moore wasn’t the only Mandy to fall hard for Ben.
Jeremy Piven as Alan Weiss
Growing up as an only child, I never really wanted siblings until high school when I realized that having an older brother also meant the possibility of an older brother’s hot friends. (I fully admit to being shallow in high school; who wasn’t?!) But I also liked the idea of someone being there for you no matter what stupid choices you make, because he likely made them, too. Piven’s Alan, although much older and an employee, not a relative, is that for Anna, even though she doesn’t realize it. (He’s terrible with women, however.)
Mark Harmon as President James Foster
Mark Harmon will forever be Leroy Jethro Gibbs to me. (Even though I didn’t start watching NCIS until after seeing this movie, I think.) Sorry, President Foster, but you are a pale comparison of such an icon. You are, however, a pretty spot-on version of the standard U.S. President stereotype: white, older, and stern-but-caring. And is also a dang good dad, in the end.
Annabella Sciorra as Cynthia Morales
Sciorra is familiar, but a cursory glance at her IMDB page says that she’s been in a lot of popular things that I’ve never seen. But I included her here, in this section, purely so that I could mention that the cutest dang relationship in this movie is the one between Weiss and Morales. I kind of wish there was a Chasing Liberty sequel with them in the main roles.
Caroline Goodall as Michelle Foster
Goodall also played the mom in Hook. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Couch-Sharing Capability: Plenty of Room For Both
There’s a level of nostalgia to Chasing Liberty that makes it easier to watch if you’ve seen it before. Otherwise, it’s a little cringy amongst its many swoony moments. But it’s still totally worth making anyone who hasn’t seen it give it a go, if only so they know where your obsession with Matthew Goode began. (If it started before that, I applaud your long term dedication.) I might even recommend making it a double feature with the slightly older, but more problematic, Leap Year.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Beer is Good
Make like Anna and get white girl wasted on cheap beer and nostalgia. Or realize that you’re no longer 18 and therefore much better than cheap beer, and get something that actually tastes good, but still gives you the warm fuzzies.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: (Feel) Good
Watching Chasing Liberty feels like an act of self-love. It’s equal parts ridiculous and charming, and I don’t know if I mentioned it, but Matthew Goode is really easy on the eyes—and ears. It’s by no means a good film, but it is a classic, especially for those of us who were actual YAs (or close to) in the early 2000s. Re-watching it is like hanging out with an old friend who you haven’t seen in ages, but whenever you get together, it’s like no time has passed at all.