'Sweet Home Alabama' Proves That Southern Girls Always Come Home
We might go off to the big city, but we will always come home.
There is only one romantic comedy in the world that has been inspired by a Lynryd Skynyrd song and that is the quintessentially Southern feel-good movie, Sweet Home Alabama. The eminently quotable film is not only the perfect combination of fun, romance, and eye candy, but also serves as a reminder that Southern girls are almost always happiest when they’re back home, surrounded by the people and scenery they love best.
Reese Witherspoon stars as Melanie Carmichael, an Alabama girl who moved to the Big Apple and worked her tail off to become a famous fashion designer at a young age. She falls in love with Andrew, played by McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey. Andrew is the son of the Mayor of New York City (played by Candice Bergen) and is clearly the man of her dreams. When Andrew proposes to Melanie, he doesn’t just pop the question and open a box. Instead, he stages an incredibly lavish affair at Tiffany’s that leaves Melanie —and the audience—swooning as he sweeps his arms around Tiffany’s engagement ring display and utters those three magic words, “Take your pick.” There’s just one little problem—Melanie’s still married to her childhood sweetheart. She has no choice but to pop down to Alabama to demand a divorce from Jake (Josh Lucas) before the wedding. After all, as her father says, “you can’t ride two horses with one ass, sugarbean.” Honestly, it’s a good thing that Reese Witherspoon is so charming or else we would be jealous of her choices in men.
From the minute Melanie lands in Pigeon Creek, Alabama, she starts to realize she’s been desperately homesick the whole time she’s been leading her career-driven, flashy life in New York City. While she told her New York friends—and soon to be in-laws—that she grew up in an oak-lined plantation, her parents live in a much more humble home, and she has missed it. She has also missed running into the locals who knew about her misspent youth and high school pranks (what’s that about a cat and firecrackers?). She has missed her parents, she’s missed seeing babies in bars (…er, maybe), and she’s even missed stubborn old Jake. After all, the two had been together since they were kids, even planning to get married while watching lightning strike. No matter how annoying a man might be, it’s hard to give up your childhood memories. One night as she and Jake are walking she tells him, “I’m happy in New York, Jake. But then I come down here and this fits, too.”
Luckily, since Jake refuses to grant her a divorce, she has plenty of time to hang around her hometown as she tries to torment him into granting her the divorce. Nothing a little clearing out of his checking account can’t solve, right?
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However, the longer Melanie stays in town with her parents Earl (Fred Ward) and Pearl (Mary Kay Place), and slowly unleashing her revenge plot on Jake, the more she realizes she belongs in Alabama. As Bobby Ray says, “you can take the girl out of the honky-tonk, but, you can't take the honky-tonk out of the girl.” In Alabama, she doesn’t have to hide who she really is, but reverts to her former self, a straight-talking, prank-loving girl who can down a few at the pool hall, has a wicked temper, and a deep love for her hometown—and, yep, her husband, too. Plus, would you want a mother-in-law who called you “a psycho Daisy Mae” and otherwise earning that punch in the jaw.
By the end of the film, Melanie has finally realized the error of her ways, telling Jake: “You’re the first boy I ever kissed, I want you to be the last.” (Sob!) As Jake says, sometimes we just can’t make the right decision until we’ve tried all the wrong ones and that includes where we live. Besides, the boys are cuter here (just because he talks slow doesn’t mean he’s stupid!).