For those that do not know, “Sweet Home Alabama” is the newest release starring Reese Witherspoon (“Legally Blonde.”) It is the story of a country girl that dreams of better things, so she runs off to New York City to become the hottest up and coming fashion designer. This film is another fairy tale that seems uplifting, but can really traumatize a young girl who is going to figure out later that life is not a fairy tale.
Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) is forced to go home to Alabama when Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), the son of New York City’s mayor, proposes to her in a scene that would make most men cringe and most women swoon. After being gone for seven years she shows up on her husband’s doorstep and demands that he finally sign divorce papers. Her husband, Jake (Josh Lucas), refuses to sign the papers and for whatever reasons he tries to find, it basically comes down to him still being in love with Melanie.
From the minute that Melanie returns to Alabama she is rude, vindictive, judgmental and insensitive to everything and everyone around her. I was hoping that this sweet home of Alabama who send her back to New York with a good kick in her ass. For lack of a better term, she was nothing more than a bitch to everyone, and still the community seems to be taken by Melanie and they just roll over and take it.
The best parts of the movie are when Jake and Melanie are bickering back and forth in a heated manner because of all the sexual tension between them. But Melanie soon enough takes it too far, and then gets drunk at a bar and insults everyone, empties Jake’s checking account and tries to force him to sign the papers, which he eventually and reluctantly does.
So, this somewhat amusing story and line of action takes off and somehow, after seeing her husband for two days after being gone for seven years, she starts to love him again but is torn. Why is she torn? Because she is a materialistic and cold-hearted harpy that exploits everybody else’s kindness.
The acting is solid, except from Candice Bergen, playing the disapproving, soon to be mother-in-law, who should no longer be in pictures. Josh Lucas, from the Best Picture “Beautiful Mind” is hilarious. He plays the stereotypical redneck boy with the charm that it requires. Patrick Dempsey, from numerous eighties movies including “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “Lover Boy,” does his usual thing and does not hinder or improve the grade for the acting. Reese Witherspoon, also from “Cruel Intentions,” is very good, but not as good as she was in “Election.” She made me hate her character, which means she can pull off that wretched style of a woman.
One of my favorite appearances is Ethan Embry (“Can’t Hardly Wait.”) His facial expressions and reactions to the others in the cast are sublime. I love watching him on the screen.
The writing is witty, with quick one-liners and strong dialogue. The direction by Andy Tennant (“Ever After,”) who also helped write the script did nothing spectacular. It was done in the same way all romantic comedies are done, but as far as the storyline goes, it was weak. The idea of a woman falling in love with a man she has hated and moved away from for seven years seems far too unlikely, even for this fairy tale.
So with that, and with the fact that Melanie is a shrewd and unlikable lead, I give this film a C+.
Suggestions with Reese Witherspoon; “Cruel Intentions,” “Election,” “Fear,” “Pleasantville.”
Suggestions with Josh Lucas; “A Beautiful Mind,” “American Psycho.”
Suggestions with Patrick Dempsey; “Crime and Punishment,” “With Honors,” “Run,” “JFK: Reckless Youth,” “Lover Boy,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Meatballs 3.”