Written by Douglas J. Eboch and C. Jay Cox
Directed by Andy Tennant
When you are watching a romantic comedy and don’t find yourself rooting for the star-crossed couple at the center of the film, you know it’s in trouble. Such was the case with Sweet Home Alabama.
Reese Witherspoon is Melanie Carmichael. She walked away from her life in rural Alabama for a new life as a career woman in New York’s fashion industry. Patrick Dempsey is her boyfriend, Andrew. He’s a New York socialite whose mother (portrayed by Candice Bergen) happens to be the Mayor. He proposes to Melanie following a successful fashion show. It would seem she has found the fairy-tale life.
There’s just one problem. Melanie left behind some unfinished business in Pigeon Creek, Alabama. When news of her engagement hits the papers, she has to go there to clean up a few things. One nagging issue is the fact that she’s still married to Jake (portrayed by Josh Lucas). He hasn’t seen or heard from her in seven years and refuses to sign the divorce papers.
Her time spent there shows the difference in her over the years. She blows into town and manages to insult just about everyone she used to call a friend. Her parents (portrayed by Fred Ward and Mary Kay Place) have refused to come to see her and she frets over how she’s going to explain her father being a Confederate Civil War re-enactor to her friends in New York. After a raucous night in a roadhouse owned by Jake’s mother (portrayed by Jean Smart) Jake signs the papers.
The Mayor, meanwhile, is becoming curious about who Melanie is and starts digging.
Sweet Home Alabama suffers from wanting to make just about everyone likable in the film and in the end, there weren’t many characters that I did like. Witherspoon is fine as Melanie, but I didn’t find myself sympathizing with her at all, even after the emotional baggage she left behind is revealed. She’s lied throughout the film to just about everyone, including both of the men she’s juggling, and turned her back on the friends and family who once believed in her.
Her fiancee Andrew is in a position to be jilted and it’s not like they made him into a jerk or anything that I could find myself rooting against him. He’s a bit shallow, but otherwise okay and this is what really made me uncomfortable with the whole scenario set up in the film.
Once back home in Alabama, much of what happens there is pretty stereotypical and might be an affront to some. The small town Melanie hails from is portrayed as something of a hick town where the people and places are still sorts of backwards. Having her father be a Confederate actor in Civil War re-enactments is just the icing on the cake.
The DVD has some good special features, including an alternate ending. I just didn’t particularly care for the film as I didn’t find the characters compelling. I don’t blame the actors; I blame a watered-down script where everyone is supposed to be likable and nice at the end which left me feeling as if the film missed the mark.
• Audio Commentary with Director Andy Tennant
• Off the Cutting Room Floor
• Alternate Ending with Introduction by Director Andy Tennant
• “Mine All Mine” Music Video
Categories: Movie Reviews