Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen, Ethan Embry, Fred Ward, Mary Kay Place, Jean Smart, Melanie Lynskey, Rhona Mitra, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Directed By: Andy Tennant
Plot: Melanie Carmichael (Witherspoon) is New York’s hottest new fashion designer, and has New York’s hottest eligible bachelor (Dempsey) as her boyfriend. When he proposes, Melanie has to quickly fly back home and tie up some loose ends, like an ex-husband (Lucas) who refuses to give her a divorce.
Disclaimer: I’ve seen this film before, so this review is not based on a “first time” viewing. If I had to guess, this was probably my 4th time seeing this film.
What Works: There’s a lot to like about this film. It’s definitely one of those films I enjoy rewatching when I catch it on TV. Witherspoon is endlessly charming as Melanie, and both Lucas and Dempsey are formidable choices for her to end up with. I found myself thinking during the film, in a holy shit moment, that’s why the film works so well. It’s not really Witherspoon, but it’s the fact that by the end of the film, really both Lucas and Dempsey are good choices. Instead of going the other route, and making one of the guys a douchebag that Melanie is just blind to, they’re both really good guys who really love Melanie, and she loves them both. It makes her decision that much harder, and I think that’s why the audience got so invested in this film (and why it made over 100M at the box office). Another thing this film does well is the supporting cast, all of whom have only brief moments with Melanie, but are treated like we’ve known them forever. It’s like there was some companion TV series where all these characters existed, and we’re visiting with old friends. That’s how Melanie treats them, and that’s how the audience gets to know them. Each time Melanie sees someone from her past, it’s like “Oh My God! It’s you!” So even though they have minimal screen time, each supporting character feels more fleshed out than they are, and the audience is more endeared to them because of it. Bergen is also delightfully bitchy as Dempsey’s mayor mother. I think the humor in this film still works, and 15 years later, I still really love watching this film.
What Doesn’t Work: So Dempsey plays the son of the mayor, and I’m not entirely sure what he does for an actual living. It’s super vague. But the press is way more interested in his life than they would be of the actual son of the mayor of New York City. Also, and while this isn’t a knock against the film, I think it’s funny how these were all brand new cars in 2002, but they look super old now in 2017. That always happens with older films though. The cars age quick. Then it becomes hard to tell who has a “used car” in the film, and who actually has a ‘new car”. And while this is arguably the best film ever directed by Andy Tennant, he would go on to squander his Alabama fame by directing Hitch, Fools Gold, and The Bounty Hunter.
Final Word: When I review one of my old favorites, I’m always skewed a bit. The last film I did was Bad Company, which is not one of my “all time favorites”, but rather just a film I enjoy watching. Sweet Home Alabama is probably one of my top 5 romantic comedies of all time. So, it’s definitely an A. And after watching this film four times, the question becomes… is it an A+ film for me? I don’t think Sweet Home Alabama has quite reached that level. It’s definitely rewatchable and I love it, but I save A+ for a very select handful of films. This is just a film I love, but it’s not really a game changer for me. There are some films I’ve seen like 10+ times, and I would watch right now, and those films end up in that A+ range.
Final Grade: A