Sweet Home Alabama

Fluff in the tradition of Hollywood's screwball comedies of remarriage, lacking the wit or grace of such classics as HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) and THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), but rescued from mediocrity by Reese Witherspoon. Steel magnolia Melanie Carmichael (Witherspoon) has conquered New York, establishing herself as a fashion designer and winning the town's...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Fluff in the tradition of Hollywood's screwball comedies of remarriage, lacking the wit or grace of such classics as HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) and THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), but rescued from mediocrity by Reese Witherspoon. Steel magnolia Melanie Carmichael (Witherspoon) has conquered New York, establishing herself as a fashion designer and winning the town's most eligible bachelor. Yet she hesitates when the handsome, supportive Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) orchestrates the perfect marriage proposal: He's kept Tiffany's open after hours just so Melanie can select the ring of her dreams, a lavishly efficient way of demonstrating that he's both rich and romantic. Is Melanie daunted by the disapproving sniffs and quips of Andrew's formidable mother, Kate (Candice Bergen), who also happens to be the Mayor of NYC? Of course not — she's come too far to be daunted by a patrician WASP whose snootiness is cloaked in a tight smile and disdainfully impeccable manners. The trouble is where Melanie came from. Contrary to what she's led people to believe, Melanie was raised in scruffy Pigeon Creek, Ala., and her only connection to the wealthy Carmichael family was hanging out with their closeted gay son, Bobby Ray (Ethan Embry), back when she was pint-size hellion Melanie Smooter — "Felony Melanie" to local law enforcement. Her parents, Earl and Pearl (Fred Ward, Mary Kay Place), live in a trailer and there's the vexing matter of high-school sweetheart Jake (Josh Lucas), who wouldn't be a big deal if Melanie hadn't married him. So she hightails it back to sort things out, starting with the divorce papers Jake's refused to sign for six years. And just when she thinks she's out, Melanie gets dragged back into the down-home life. The good news is that for all its clumsiness, the movie manages some tidy twists on the tried-and-true formula, including several scenes predicated on Melanie's stuck-up conviction that the rubes she left behind don't recognize her new, svelte and trendy self. In fact, they not only know exactly who she is, but what she's been doing; online, the whole world's a small town. But for every small pleasure there's a coarse, obvious joke, and the movie would fall flat were it not for Witherspoon. You see why Melanie's overweening self-confidence ticks off old pals, but Witherspoon keeps you on Melanie's side. She may not look like the aristocratic Katharine Hepburn, but Witherspoon has mastered her trademark mix of snippy resolve and evident intelligence — if only she weren't stuck in Melanie's awful clothes.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Fluff in the tradition of Hollywood's screwball comedies of remarriage, lacking the wit or grace of such classics as HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) and THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), but rescued from mediocrity by Reese Witherspoon. Steel magnolia Melanie Carmichael (Wit… (more)

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