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 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 US$30 million[1]
Box office US$180.6 million[1]

Sweet Home Alabama is a 2002 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.


The film opens on a stormy Alabama beach with two children, Melanie Smooter and Jake Perry, chasing each other. Jake has brought Melanie out to show her the glass sculptures that result when sand is struck by lightning. They discuss their future together, with Jake asserting they will be married one day. They kiss and are almost struck by lightning.

In the present day, Melanie (Reese Witherspoon), who has changed her last name to Carmichael to hide her poor Southern roots, is a successful up-and-coming 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. In reality she is going to procure a divorce from her estranged husband Jake (Josh Lucas), to whom she is still married. Andrew's mother (Candice Bergen) expresses doubt that Melanie is good enough for her son.

In Alabama, Melanie demands a divorce and asks Jake why he has returned the divorce papers unsigned for the last seven years. Jake again refuses to sign the papers (this time being that she has not visited her parents before him) and orders her out of his house. When she does not, he calls the sheriff, who at first refuses to intervene as he is a friend of theirs, but when it is revealed Melanie drove a tractor into his pond, he holds her at the station. Melanie calls her parents, who do not know she is in town, and her father (Fred Ward) picks her up. It's revealed that Jake showed up drunk to their wedding. She announces her engagement, much to the delight of her mother (Mary Kay Place). The next day, hoping to spur Jake to sign the papers, Melanie empties out his checking account, after learning that it's a joint account with her name on it. Jake says he will sign the papers, sadly stating "nobody meets their soulmate when they're ten years old", but then says he will do so after a date with a local girl, retorting that if she is seeing someone else, so should he. After following Jake to a local bar, Melanie gets drunk and embarrasses herself in front of her friends, expressing disgust at their lifestyle, confessing that Jake got her pregnant and outing a mutual friend, Bobby Ray. Jake becomes angry with her and takes her home. When Melanie wakes up the next morning, the divorce papers are lying on her bed, finally signed by Jake.

Soon after, Melanie visits the Carmichael Plantation, where she tries to apologize to Bobby Ray. Though he accepts the apology, he tells Melanie that Jake is not the only person she left behind, reminding her that the friends and family she has in Alabama still care for her. Just as she leaves, Melanie is cornered by a man claims to be a reporter from the New York Post, who is actually trying to dig up dirt on Melanie to report to the mayor. Realizing her predicament, Bobby Ray pretends to be her cousin and gives them a tour. That afternoon, at a local fair, Melanie is reconciled to her friends, and learns that Jake had earlier gone to New York City to try and win her back, but intimidated by the size of Manhattan, turned around and went home determined to make something of himself. Melanie now realizes that Jake never signed the divorce papers because he still loves her.

Later that night, Melanie goes to the cemetery to tell their old hound dog Bear good-bye, having left before he died. Jake shows up and they talk about why their marriage did not work after the miscarriage of Melanie's pregnancy. Jake apologizes to Melanie and she talks about loving New York City but also feeling at home in Alabama. He tells her she can have both roots and wings. They kiss but Jake pushes her away and tells her to go home.

Andrew arrives at the Carmichael Plantation, Melanie's purported home, hoping to surprise her. Jake meets him and takes him to the field of a Civil War reenactment, where Melanie is with her father. On the way, knowing who Andrew is, Jake regales Andrew with the story of "Felony" Melanie Smooter, a young girl who once tied dynamite to a cat's tail and then was arrested after it ran into the bank. When Andrew sees Melanie at the battlefield, she tells him Jake is her ex-husband. When her father introduces himself as Earl Smooter, Andrew realizes that Melanie has lied to him about who she really is, and he rebuffs her and leaves.

Melanie returns to her parents' house. Later, her father walks in with Andrew, who says 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 browse at a glazier whose wares they all have admired in New York. The owner introduces himself to Melanie's friends, only to realize it is Jake. Melanie is surprised and touched to see what Jake has made of himself, all to win her back.

On the wedding day, Melanie's lawyer interrupts the ceremony and explains that the divorce is not final because while Jake signed the divorce papers Melanie herself has not. Realizing her love for Jake, she tells Andrew that she cannot marry him and wishes him luck in finding a good woman. Andrew, showing no ill-feelings, wishes her well in return. His mother explodes, attacking Andrew for risking his promising political career (moreso spurred on by her kingmaking), and verbally attacking Melanie and the town. When she insults Melanie's mother, Melanie punches her in the jaw, to the cheers of the crowd.

Melanie later finds Jake on their favorite childhood beach, planting metal rods to draw lighting to create more sand sculptures. She tells him they are still married, and asks why he didn't tell her he came to New York. He says he needed to make something of himself and she says, "Are you about done?" They repeat the conversation from when they were children about why they want to be married. As Jake and Melanie kiss, town sheriff Wade interrupts them, saying that Melanie is again wanted because she "ran out on a perfectly good cake". Wade takes the pair back to the bar owned by Jake's mother, where their friends and family are waiting. The pair finally get their long-awaited first dance as husband and wife, to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama". A mid-credits sequence shows that Jake and Melanie have a daughter, Melanie continues to thrive as a designer and Jake opens a "Deep South Glass" Franchise in New York.


  • 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 was engaged to the wealthy Andrew Hennings.
  • 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. The son of Mayor Kate Hennings of New York, he was engaged to Melanie.
  • Candice Bergen as Mayor Kate Hennings. The mother of Andrew, she is wary of his relationship with Melanie.
  • Mary Kay Place as Pearl Smooter, mother of Melanie. She is happily married to Earl Smooter.
  • Fred Ward as Earl Smooter, Melanie's father. He enjoys participating in re-enactments of the Civil War.
  • Jean Smart as Stella Kay Perry, the mother of Jake, Melanie's husband. She owns "Stella's", a local tavern.
  • Ethan Embry as Bobby Ray Bailey, one of Melanie's childhood friends. He is outed by Melanie and is a good friend to Jake.
  • Melanie Lynskey as Lurlynn, who lives in Pigeon Creek and is a childhood acquaintance of Melanie.
  • Courtney Gains as Sheriff Wade, a childhood friend of Melanie.
  • Mary Lynn Rajskub as Dorothea, Wade's wife.
  • Rhona Mitra as Tabatha Wadmore-Smith, one of Melanie's best friends from New York.
  • Susannah Halling as the official leader of the Redneck Dancing Association.
  • Nathan Lee Graham as Frederick Montana, Melanie’s friend and mentor from New York. He is a fashion designer and friendly competitor.
  • Kevin Sussman as Barry Lowenstein, assistant to Mayor Kate Hennings.
  • Thomas Curtis as Young Jake.
  • Dakota Fanning as Young Melanie.
  • Sean Bridgers as Eldon



Although centered in the fiction 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, an historic landmark in Georgia which is on the campus of Berry College in Rome, Georgia.[2]

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.[2]

Jake's glassblowing shop was filmed at an old mill, named Starr's Mill, in Fayette County, Georgia. Wynn's Pond in Sharpsburg, Georgia is the location where Jake lands his plane. The historic homes shown at Melanie's return to Pigeon Creek were shot in Eufaula, Alabama.[2]

The movie title and theme song lyrics are from the "Sweet Home Alabama" song by Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, that first appeared in 1974 on their second album, Second Helping.[3]


Critical response[edit]

This film received mostly mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, 38% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 157 reviews.[4]

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."[5]

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."[6]

Box-office performance[edit]

The film grossed over US$35 million in its first weekend. By the end of its run in the United States, Sweet Home Alabama grossed over US$130 million, and another US$53,399,006 internationally. With a reported budget of US$30 million, it was a box office hit, despite the mixed reviews.[1]


The film 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. ^ a b c www.imdb.com, Sweet Home Alabama (2002) Filming Locations "imdb.com-Sweet Home Alabama" Check |url= value (help). 
  3. ^ Sweet Home Alabama song information, Songfacts.com
  4. ^ "Sweet Home Alabama". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved September 19, 2009. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Sweet Home Alabama". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Critic Reviews for Sweet Home Alabama". http://www.rottentomatoes.com. Flixster, Inc. Retrieved 13 December 2012.  External link in |work= (help)

External links[edit]