Sweet Home Alabama (film)

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Sweet Home Alabama
Sweet Home Alabama film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndy Tennant
Produced byNeal H. Moritz
Screenplay byC. Jay Cox
Story byDouglas J. Eboch
StarringReese Witherspoon
Josh Lucas
Patrick Dempsey
Ethan Embry
Mary Kay Place
Fred Ward
Candice Bergen
Jean Smart
Melanie Lynskey
Music byGeorge Fenton
CinematographyAndrew Dunn
Edited byTroy Takaki
Tracey Wadmore-Smith
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • September 27, 2002 (2002-09-27)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[1]
Box office$180.6 million[1]

Sweet Home Alabama is a 2002 American romantic comedy film directed by Andy Tennant and starring Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey and Candice Bergen. The film was released by Touchstone Pictures on September 27, 2002. The film takes its title from the Lynyrd Skynyrd song of the same name.


On a stormy Alabama beach, 10 year olds Jake Perry shows Melanie Smooter the result of 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 wakes up from a nap in her New York City studio; as a successful up-and-coming fashion designer, she has adopted the last name of "Carmichael" to hide her poor Southern roots. After becoming engaged to Andrew Hennings, Melanie goes home alone to Alabama to tell her parents and to procure a divorce from her estranged husband Jake. Kate, Andrew's mother and 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. Melanie asks Jake why he has returned the divorce papers unsigned for the last seven years; he orders her out of his house, eventually calling the sheriff to intervene. When Melanie's father Earl 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, hence why she married him, and outing a mutual friend, Bobby Ray Bailey. 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 Barry Lowenstein, who claims to be a journalist but is actually the mayor's assistant, sent to gather information on Melanie's background. 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. Jake finds Melanie in a graveyard upset over their old dog, and they have a heart to heart about their wedding, the loss of their baby due to miscarriage, and Melanie leaving for a new life. 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 former 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 calls Melanie's mother trailer trash, 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 lightning 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. A newspaper clipping announces the wedding of Andrew and a girl named Erin Vanderbilt.




Although centered in a fictional version of the 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, a 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 film 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. A critics consensus reads: "Reese Witherspoon is charming enough, but the road to Alabama is well-traveled."[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:

Association Category Recipient Result Ref
BMI Film & Television Award BMI Film Music Award George Fenton Won [6]
GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Film — Wide Release Sweet Home Alabama Nominated
Golden Trailer Award Best Romance Secretary Nominated
Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Award Best Contemporary Hair Styling — Feature Anne Morgan Nominated
MTV Movie + TV Award Best Female Performance Reese Witherspoon Nominated
Teen Choice Award Choice Movie: Comedy Sweet Home Alabama Won
Choice Movie: Comedy Actress Reese Witherspoon Nominated
Choice Movie: Villain Candice Bergen Nominated
Choice Movie: Liplock Reese Witherspoon & Josh Lucas Won


Sweet Home Alabama (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), the film soundtrack, includes thirteen songs by different artists.[7]

1."Sweet Home Alabama"Gary Rossington, Ronnie Van Zant, Edward King3:43
2."Mine All Mine"Kristyn Osborn, Hollie Poole3:55
3."Falling Down"Avril Lavigne, David Alspach, Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards3:54
4."Gonna Make You Love Me"Ryan Adams2:36
5."To Think I Used to Love You (DJ Homicide Remix)"Uncle Kracker3:26
6."Keep Your Hands to Yourself"Daniel J. Baird3:06
7."Bring On the Day"Amy Powers, Jeffrey C.J. Vanston4:33
8."Long Gone Lonesome Blues"Hank Williams2:55
9."You Got Me"Jason Chain3:44
10."Now That I Know"Eric Bazilian, Shannon McNally4:44
11."Marry Me"Dolly Parton3:15
12."Weekend Song"Matt Cantor, Pete Chill, Aston Harvey, Tenor Fly3:58
13."Felony Melanie - Sweet Home Alabama Suite (Score)" 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.
  6. ^ Sweet Home Alabama, retrieved 2018-08-15
  7. ^ "Various - Sweet Home Alabama (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) on Apple Music". iTunes. Retrieved 1 January 2002.

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

External links[edit]