Sweet Home Alabama (film)

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Sweet Home Alabama
Sweet Home Alabama film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andy Tennant
Produced by David Brown
Michael Tolkin
Neal H. Moritz
Written by Screenplay:
C. Jay Cox
Douglas J. Eboch
Starring Reese Witherspoon
Josh Lucas
Patrick Dempsey
Candice Bergen
Mary Kay Place
Fred Ward
Ethan Embry
Melanie Lynskey
Mary Lynn Rajskub
Jean Smart
Dakota Fanning
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Edited by Troy Takaki
Tracey Wadmore-Smith
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • September 27, 2002 (2002-09-27)
Running time 109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $38 million[1]
Box office $180,622,424[1]

Sweet Home Alabama is an American romantic comedy film directed by Andy Tennant, starring Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey and Candice Bergen. The film was released by Touchstone Pictures and released on September 27, 2002.


The film opens on an Alabama beach with two children, Melanie Smooter and Jake Perry, chasing each other. The two discuss their future together. They kiss, and Jake says they will be married one day. The scene then moves to the present day. Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) has changed her last name to Carmichael to hide her Southern roots. She now is a successful fashion designer in New York City. After becoming engaged to the mayor's son, Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), Melanie announces that she has to go back home alone to Alabama to tell her parents. She has not told Andrew that she is still married to Jake (Josh Lucas).

Upon arrival in Alabama, Melanie demands a divorce and an explanation as to why, for the last seven years, Jake has returned the divorce papers unsigned. Jake, once again, refuses to sign the papers, first demanding that Melanie visit her parents to say hello. Melanie retaliates by emptying out their joint checking account. After following Jake to a local bar, Melanie gets drunk and embarrasses herself in front of her friends, confessing that she had previously been pregnant with Jake's baby, which ended in a miscarriage. She also reveals that a mutual friend, Bobby Ray, is gay. Jake becomes angry with her and takes her home. When Melanie wakes up the next morning, the divorce papers are lying on her bed and finally signed by Jake.

Soon after, Melanie visits the Carmichael Plantation and tries to apologize to Bobby Ray. Though Bobby Ray accepts the apology, he explicitly tells Melanie that Jake is not the only person she left behind. He expresses the sadness that all her friends have felt after she fled to New York City years ago. Just as Melanie is leaving the plantation, she finds herself cornered by a pushy reporter who claims to be from the New York Post (though in reality, he is the assistant of Andrew's mother) and asks for a tour of the beautiful plantation where Melanie supposedly grew up. Desperately, Melanie tries to sneak back into the mansion. Bobby Ray realizes what is happening, so he pretends to be Melanie's cousin and saves her from embarrassment by giving the reporter a tour of the plantation. That afternoon, Melanie realizes that her friends are kind, caring individuals who never stopped loving her.

Melanie learns from a friend that Jake had once gone to New York City to try and find her because he was still in love. That night, Melanie goes to the cemetery to tell her old dog good-bye. Jake shows up, and they talk about why their marriage did not work which is hinted to be due to the combination of Jake's irresponsibility and her miscarriage. Jake wishes Melanie a good life with Andrew, but Melanie expresses ambivalence, and they kiss. However, Jake pushes her away and tells her to go home.

Andrew arrives in town, looking for Melanie at the Carmichael Plantation, her "supposed" home. Jake meets him and takes him to the field of a Civil War reenactment, where Melanie is with her father. Jake tells Andrew about his ex-wife, Melanie Smooter. When Andrew sees Melanie at the battlefield, her father introduces himself to Andrew as Earl Smooter. Realizing Jake's wife is the same woman he proposed to, Andrew rebuffs Melanie and leaves.

Melanie returns to her parents' house, where her father walks in with Andrew. Andrew tells her that he does not care about the past and still wants to marry her. They decide to have the wedding in Alabama, and Andrew's mother comes down from New York. Once Melanie's friends from New York arrive, they discover that Jake has become a very successful glassblower with his own company. Melanie is surprised to see what Jake has made out of himself, and it is suddenly clear that he did it all to win her back.

On her wedding day, as she is walking down the aisle, her lawyer interrupts the ceremony and explains that the divorce is still not final because Melanie forgot to sign the divorce papers. Melanie explains to Andrew that she cannot marry him because she still loves Jake and hopes Andrew will find a good woman. Andrew graciously accepts this and wishes her well with Jake. However, Andrew's mother explodes, attacking Andrew for sullying his image for a promising political career, then verbally attacking Melanie and the town. When she insults Melanie's mother, Melanie punches her.

Melanie finds Jake on the same beach, as it was in the film's opening. Melanie tells him that the two are still married, and she wants to be with him. As Jake and Melanie kiss, the town sheriff, Wade, interrupts them explaining that Melanie is wanted because she ran out on a perfectly good cake. Wade takes the pair back to the bar owned by Jake's mother, where all of their friends and family are waiting. Throughout the end credits then into a post-credits scene, it is shown that Melanie got pregnant again, only this time she successfully carried the baby to term.


  • Reese Witherspoon as Melanie "Carmichael" Smooter Perry. She grew up in Pigeon Creek, Alabama and moved to New York City to follow her dreams. Now a noted fashion designer, she is engaged to the wealthy Andrew Hennings. She is confident and driven to succeed, however, her past is holding her back from moving ahead in her present life.
  • Josh Lucas as Jake Perry. Perry is married to Melanie who has been his best friend since childhood. He lives in Pigeon Creek, Alabama.
  • Patrick Dempsey as Andrew Hennings. Hennings is the son of Mayor Kate Hennings of New York. He is engaged to Melanie Carmichael, and lives in New York.
  • Candice Bergen as Mayor Kate Hennings. Hennings is the Mayor of New York. Hennings is the mother of Andrew Hennings. She is wary of Andrew and Melanie’s relationship. She is an overprotective mother.
  • Mary Kay Place as Pearl Smooter. Smooter is the mother of Melanie Carmichael. She is happily married to Earl Smooter. She lives in Pigeon Creek, Alabama. Smooter does not want Melanie to be anything like her; she wants Melanie to do bigger things with her life.
  • Fred Ward as Earl Smooter. Smooter is Melanie Carmichael’s father. Smooter lives in Pigeon Creek, Alabama. He enjoys participating in reenactments of the Civil War. He is happily married to Pearl Smooter.
  • Jean Smart as Stella Kay Perry. Perry is the mother of Jake, Melanie Carmichael’s husband. She owns "Stella's", a local tavern. Perry respects Melanie and wants what is best for both her and Jake.
  • Ethan Embry as Bobby Ray Bailey. Bobby Ray is one of Melanie Carmichael’s childhood friends. He helps out on the Carmichael Plantation and is outed by Melanie. He is a good friend to Jake Perry.
  • Melanie Lynskey as Lurlynn. Lurlynn lives in Pigeon Creek, Alabama and is a childhood acquaintance to Melanie Carmichael. Lurlynn is married to Clinton. Lurlynn informs Carmichael that Jake Perry went to visit her in New York but realized he needed to make something of himself before he won her back.
  • Courtney Gains as Sheriff Wade. Wade is a childhood friend of Melanie Carmichael. Carmichael and Wade were known to find trouble together when they were younger. Wade is good friends to Jake Perry and Bobby Ray Bailey. Wade is now the sheriff in Pigeon Creek and is engaged to Dorothea.
  • Mary Lynn Rajskub as Dorothea. Dorothea is from Pigeon Creek, Alabama and a childhood acquaintance to Melanie Carmichael. When Carmichael returns to Greensville she stops in at the bank and sees Dorothea as a bank teller. Dorthea lost over a hundred pounds since the last time Carmichael had seen her. Dorothea is engaged to Sheriff Wade.
  • Rhona Mitra as Tabatha Wadmore-Smith. Wadmore-Smith is one of Melanie Carmichael’s best friends. She serves as a loyal friend and a support system to Carmichael. Wadmore-Smith is a model for Carmichael’s fashion show.
  • Susannah Halling as the official leader of the Redneck Dancing Association whom was made famous by her influential role in Dirty Dancing as lead choreographer.
  • Nathan Lee Graham as Frederick Montana. Montana is one of Melanie Carmichael’s best friends. He acts as her support system when things go wrong. Montana is a fashion designer and friendly competition to Carmichael.
  • Kevin Sussman as Barry Lowenstein. Lowenstein is the assistant to the mayor of New York, Kate Hennings. Hennings instructs Lowenstein to go under cover as a reporter and find out information on Melanie Carmichael’s past in Alabama. Lowenstein heads to Greenville and reports back to Hennings throughout the film.
  • Thomas Curtis as Young Jake.
  • Dakota Fanning as Young Melanie.
  • Sean Bridgers as Eldon



Although centered in the fictionalized town of Pigeon Creek, near a fictional version of Greenville, Alabama, the film was mostly shot in Georgia. The Carmichael Plantation, which Melanie tells the reporter is her childhood home, is the Oak Hill Berry Museum. Oak Hill is a historic landmark in Georgia and is on the campus of Berry College in Rome, Georgia.

The streets and storefronts of Crawfordville, Georgia were used as the backdrop for the Catfish Festival and other downtown scenes. The coonhound cemetery was on Moore Street in Crawfordville, and the bar was located at Heavy's Barbecue near the town. Glass that forms when lightning hits sand, as in the film, is called fulgurite.

The glassblowing shop that belongs to Jake in the film was actually an old mill named Starr's Mill in Fayette County, Georgia. Wynn's Pond in Sharpsburg, Georgia is the actual location where Jake lands his plane. The historic homes that Melanie passes by as she enters Pigeon Creek were shot in Eufaula, Alabama.


Critical response[edit]

This film received mostly mixed reviews from critics. On the film's Rotten Tomatoes listing, 38 percent of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 157 reviews.[2] Roger Ebert, critic for the Chicago Sun Times, awarded it three-out-of-four stars commenting, "It is a fantasy, a sweet, light-hearted fairy tale with Reese Witherspoon at its center. She is as lovable as Doris Day would have been in this role... So I enjoyed Witherspoon and the local color, but I am so very tired of the underlying premise." [3] Andrew Sarris, critic for the New York Observer, said that the movie "Would be an unendurable viewing experience for this ultra-provincial New Yorker if 26-year-old Reese Witherspoon were not on hand to inject her pure fantasy character, Melanie Carmichael, with a massive infusion of old-fashioned Hollywood magic."[4]

Box-office performance[edit]

The film grossed over $35 million in its first weekend which at the time held the highest September opening weekend record for ten years until the animated 2012 film Hotel Transylvania surpassed it with a weekend gross of $42.5 million. By the end of its run in the United States, Sweet Home Alabama grossed over $130 million and another $53,399,006 internationally. With a reported budget of $38 million, it can be considered a box office hit, and a success with the public, despite the negative reviews.[1]


The film also won the following awards:


Sweet Home Alabama (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), the film soundtrack, includes thirteen songs by different artists.

No. Title Music Length
1. "Sweet Home Alabama"   Jewel 3:43
2. "Mine All Mine"   SHeDAISY 3:55
3. "Falling Down"   Avril Lavigne 3:54
4. "Gonna Make You Love Me"   Ryan Adams 2:36
5. "To Think I Used to Love You"   Uncle Kracker 3:26
6. "Keep Your Hands to Yourself"   The Calling 3:06
7. "Bring On the Day"   Charlotte Martin 4:33
8. "Long Gone Lonesome Blues"   Sheryl Crow 2:55
9. "You Got Me"   Jason Chain 3:44
10. "Now That I Know"   Shannon McNally 4:44
11. "Marry Me"   Dolly Parton 3:15
12. "Weekend Song"   Freestylers 3:58
13. "Felony Melanie - Sweet Home Alabama Suite (Score)"   George Fenton 5:02


  1. ^ a b c "Sweet Home Alabama (2002)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved September 19, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Sweet Home Alabama". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved September 19, 2009. 
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Sweet Home Alabama". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Critic Reviews for Sweet Home Alabama". http://www.rottentomatoes.com. Flixster, Inc. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 

External links[edit]