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
Screenplay by C. Jay Cox
Story by Douglas J. Eboch
Starring Reese Witherspoon
Josh Lucas
Patrick Dempsey
Ethan Embry
Mary Kay Place
Fred Ward
Candice Bergen
Jean Smart
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 $30 million[1]
Box office $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 on September 27, 2002.


The film opens on a stormy Alabama beach with two children, Melanie Smooter and Jake Perry. 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.

In the present day, Melanie has changed her last name to Carmichael, a rich local family, to hide her poor Southern roots. She is a successful up-and-coming fashion designer in New York City. After becoming engaged to Andrew, Melanie goes home alone to Alabama to tell her parents. In reality she is going to procure a divorce from her estranged husband Jake. Andrew's mother, the Mayor of New York, expresses doubt that Melanie is good enough for her son, whom she is grooming to eventually run for President of the United States.

In Alabama, Melanie asks Jake why he has returned the divorce papers unsigned for the last seven years, but he orders her out of his house, eventually calling the sheriff (another childhood friend) to intervene. When Melanie's father brings her home from the station she announces her engagement.

Hoping to spur Jake to sign the papers, Melanie empties out his checking account, after learning that her name is still on it. Jake says he will sign the papers in the morning, lamenting "nobody finds their soulmate when they're ten years old". Following Jake to a local bar, Melanie gets drunk and embarrasses herself in front of her childhood friends, expressing disgust at their lifestyle, confessing that Jake got her pregnant as teens and outing a mutual friend, Bobby Ray Carmichael. When Melanie wakes up the next morning, the divorce papers are lying on her bed, finally signed by Jake.

Melanie visits the Carmichael plantation to apologize to Bobby Ray, where she is cornered by a private detective sent to dig up dirt for the mayor. Realizing her predicament, Bobby Ray pretends to be her cousin, backing up her pretense that this is her childhood home. Melanie soon reconciles with her other friends, and learns that Jake followed her to New York City to win her back—intimidated by the size of Manhattan, he returned home determined to make something of himself first. Melanie now realizes why Jake never signed the divorce papers.

Andrew arrives at the Carmichael Plantation to surprise Melanie. Jake takes him to a Civil War reenactment, where Melanie is with her father. On the way, knowing who Andrew is, Jake regales him 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 leaves. Andrew soon appears at Melanie's parents' house, having gotten over the shock and admitting he still wants to marry her, here in Alabama.

Once Melanie's friends from New York arrive, they browse at a glazier whose wares they all have admired in New York, only to realize it is Jake.

Melanie's lawyer interrupts the wedding ceremony, bringing the divorce papers that Melanie herself has missed signing. Melanie hesitates, realizing her love for Jake. She wishes Andrew luck in finding a good woman. Andrew, distressed but showing no ill-feelings, wishes her well in return. His mother explodes, berating Andrew for risking his promising political career and verbally attacking Melanie. She then insults the town and Melanie's mother, for which Melanie punches her in the jaw, to the cheers of the crowd.

Melanie, in her wedding gown in the rain, finds Jake planting metal rods in the beach 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. They repeat the conversation from when they were children about why they want to be married. As Jake and Melanie kiss, sheriff Wade "arrests" them and takes them 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 they 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 Smooter / Melanie Carmichael. 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 New York City Mayor Kate Hennings, he is engaged to Melanie.
  • Ethan Embry as Bobby Ray Bailey, one of Melanie's childhood friends. He is outed by Melanie and is a good friend to Jake.
  • 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.
  • Candice Bergen as Mayor Kate Hennings. The mother of Andrew, she is wary of his relationship with Melanie.
  • Jean Smart as Stella Kay Perry, the mother of Jake, Melanie's husband. She owns "Stella's", a local tavern.
  • Dakota Fanning as Young Melanie
  • Thomas Curtis as Young 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.
  • Sean Bridgers as Eldon



Although centered in the fictional 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.

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.

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.

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.[2]


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.[3]

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."[4]

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."[5]

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 (DJ Homicide Remix)"   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. Retrieved September 19, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2016-07-03. 
  3. ^ "Sweet Home Alabama". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved September 19, 2009. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Sweet Home Alabama". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Critic Reviews for Sweet Home Alabama". Rottten Tomatoes. Flixster, Inc. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

  • The Judge - a 2014 film with a similar plot of a protagonist with a successful big city career drawn back to an old hometown.
  • Middle America