By Diana Pastrana
Life & Art Writer
The story of this Andy Tennant (Fools Rush In) film revolves around Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon), a simple small town girl from Alabama, turned successful elite New York fashion designer, who is proposed to by her rich boyfriend Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), who just happens to be the mayor of New York’s son. In order to get married, Melanie has to go back home to Alabama to get divorced from her unrefined deadbeat husband/childhood sweetheart Jake (Joshua Lucas), and face her parents and the friends she left behind. Through all of this, her fiance is completely oblivious, as Melanie has kept the marriage and even her real name a secret.
Witherspoon’s top shelf versatility is proven in this movie, not because her character evokes any genuine emotion, due to the plot’s skim believability, but because she tries really really hard to give life to a role within a mediocre script. The acting from the rest of the cast is generally decent, except for a typecast Candice Bergen, who plays the neurotic, overprotective mother to Dempsey’s character, as seen in a gazillion other movies like Miss Congeniality.
An obvious flaw in the film is that it is loaded with stereotypes and cliches in scene after scene. For example, the fashion designer’s closest friends in New York are an African American homosexual fashion obsessive and a spoiled, foreign supermodel. Also, the people in Melanie’s hometown have mullets, drive pick-up trucks, and recreate the civil war for entertainment purposes. If the director could have taken more chances with the film might have been more successful in its contrasting presentation of lifestyle.
Although there is a palpable on-screen chemistry between Witherspoon and Lucas, it is difficult to tell how real her feelings are for him, since she seems to be more compatible with Dempsey. Another notable mistake is the fact that Lucas’ mother, played by Jean Smart, appears to be central in Witherspoon’s decision to stay with Lucas, but their relationship consists of zero substance.
Sweet Home Alabama is mildly funny and tender, yet sloppily executed and harbored by its date movie redundancy. The worst part is at the end when Jewel disrespectfully covers Lynyrd Skynyrd’s title jam. Just after the state of Alabama has wiped away almost all of its tears from this band’s tragic accident, it is forced to start weeping again, this time due to a cover song by an extremely wack folk singer/wack poet. Suddenly, this movie seems worse than it is.
Diana Pastrana can be reached at godess_Diana@hotmail.com.