Sweet Home Alabama


Directed by: Andy Tennant
Written by:C. Jay Cox
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen, Mary Kay Place, Fred Ward
Released: December 19, 2002
Grade: C

Melanie Carmichael (Witherspoon) has it all.  She’s a young fashion designer living in New York City who has just received outstanding praise from critics for her inaugural show.  She’s dating the most eligible bachelor in the country, Andrew Hennings (Dempsey), who’s mother (Bergen) is the mayor of New York.  She’s finally shrugged off her “shameful” Alabama heritage and has a host of new friends to wine, dine and hang out with.

It gets better.  Andrew proposes to her in a blissfully romantic fashion and naturally, the answer is yes but the reaction comes somewhat of a surprise to Andrew.  Melanie tells Andrew that she’ll like to go home, to a place she hasn’t been in seven years, to tell her parents in person and she’d prefer it if Andrew didn’t come along just yet.  So what exactly is Melanie hiding?  Well she’s still married to some guy, Jake (Lucas) back home and whilst they separated many years ago, he never actually signed the divorce papers.

On arrival in sweet home Alabama, the memories come flooding back.  She remembers why she left the place and why Josh was so impossible to live with.  She phrases it best by saying that “people should need a passport to come down here.”  Josh initially refuses to sign the papers on account of Melanie becoming a snobbish bitch and so she’s forced to hang around a little while longer.

Of course it’s here where the transformation begins.  Melanie drops in to see her parents, meets with old friends and spends more time with Josh.  There’s no place like home and Melanie is soon learning that lesson.  What to do?  Is this just some infatuation with the past or is this the place where she really belongs?  What about her life in New York and what about Andrew?  Which life fits best?

Horribly predictable, this is the lowest Reese Witherspoon has sunk.  She’s a marvellously gifted actress, and is the best part of the movie, but the material is not on par with her ability.  There’s nothing original about this overused romantic theme and the jokes that screenwriter C. Jay Cox has conjured up are tired and lame.  It’s too “sweet” for its own good.

All the characters are one-dimensional and have walked straight out of an American screenwriter’s textbook.  I’m not asking for amazingly complex characters – this is a romantic comedy after all – but a little depth wouldn’t go astray.  Something fresh to liven up this prissy cast and stop them acting as if they’re reading of an autocue.  Too precise for my liking.

Reese’s next project is a sequel to Legally Blonde.  This has me worried.  Has an actress with the world at her feet fallen victim to Hollywood commercialism?  I think I’ll go watch Election again to give myself some reassurance.