If I have not mentioned this before in a review, I will say it here: though I live in Florida, my true home will always be Chicago (or the suburbs of that great city, anyway). When deciding where to pursue my Ph.D., most of the schools to which I applied were in the Windy City. After being accepted to Loyola, I moved up there enthusiastic, not just to begin my studies but also because I felt like I was going home. Now, my first Winter up there I almost made me quit, particularly after not seeing the sun for a solid month. Truly. I kept track of it. Still, whenever I am up there (as long as I am not freezing my tuchus off) the air just seems different and I feel a sense of inner peace that I honestly do not know elsewhere. Yet I cannot imagine living anywhere else other than Florida. Most of my family and closest friends are down here, and if you have ever been here on picture perfect day in January, then you know that there is no place else to be. This is all a long way of introducing you to the themes in Sweet Home Alabama (2002).
Did you know that Sweet Home Alabama was one of the first major motion pictures filmed in New York City after the attacks of September 11th, 2001? Neither did I, until I noticed it on the handy little trivia tidbits that Amazon Prime gives you when you watch films on its platform. That is where it begins, with Melanie Smooter/Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) dreaming of when she was a child in rural Alabama and kissing her first crush. In more modern times, she is an up and coming fashion designer who is preparing for her first major showing of her clothes. She has success, fame, and she is about to be proposed to by her boyfriend, Andrew Hennings (Patrick Dempsey), who is the son of they city’s mayor, Kate Hennings (Candice Bergen). There is one pitfall, though, that might keep her from fulfilling all her goals. Remember that crush that she saw in her sleep? That is her husband, Jake Perry (Josh Lucas), who she left in Alabama for a variety of reasons, primary among them being the miscarriage of their child and feeling trapped. When she came to New York, she became Melanie Carmichael, but when she returns to Alabama to settle the divorce with Jake once and for all, she is reminded by him and a host of other characters down there that she is really Melanie Smooter. Growing up in Pigeon Creek, Melanie Smooter was infamous for, among other things, blowing up the bank. At any rate, she enjoys some of the strolls down memory lane, but she feels like her move to New York was also about getting away from the infamy. It all comes to a head when she drunkenly confronts her friends in a popular local watering hole, exclaiming that she is better than all of them, and goes around apologizing the next day. Is that not always the way? At the same time, it becomes apparent that Jake had not signed the bill of divorcement because he stills has feelings for Melanie. She still loves him, but is confused because her life in New York with her success and Andrew are all good too. After Andrew surprises her by flying to Alabama and learning of the whole sordid affair, though initially confused, they decide to get married in Alabama instead of New York. Walking up the aisle, her much harassed lawyer catches up to her and reveals that while he had signed the divorce papers, she had not. It is at that moment that she realizes she still loves Jake. She leaves and finds Jake, they make up, and they presumably live happily ever after.
I watched Sweet Home Alabama a lot while I was at Loyola because I could identify with Melanie and her struggles with feeling like she fits in well in two different places, and deciding which is best. Every Winter I would pine for Florida, and every Summer I would pine for Chicago. Yet that is not what I would like to focus a bit more on today. Instead, it is the character of Andrew Hennings. I have been him before, and it has happened again recently. I have long felt like being married and having a family is my vocation, and the long road that it has been so far does not seem to be ending any time soon. And there is really nothing that we can do to control when and where it will end. That is certainly the case for Andrew. The poor guy did nothing wrong. He loved and avidly supported all that Melanie did. He had success and proposed to her inside Tiffany’s, telling her to “pick one” after she said yes. When she revealed that she had a husband who she never told him about, while at first disturbed, he accepted the situation and moved on. And when Melanie finally turns him down at the altar, after having made all the right moves, he takes it with grace. I cannot say I have always done so, Lord knows. I have been praying for my future bride for some time, and only God knows when (if ever) that person will step into my life. God will make that happen, but He cannot make it happen, if you know what I mean? Free will is a heck of a thing.
Sweet Home Alabama is a personal favorite of mine and I recommend it to pretty much everyone. If you have ever been torn between two different places (or people, I suppose), then you will get a lot out of this movie. It is rated PG-13, and there is some drinking and sexuality in it. A good date night movie, at any rate. It is bittersweet if you identify with Andrew and have been in a situation where you have been jilted in spite of your best efforts. All I can say (and I say this to myself, if nobody else), is that God loves you. He truly does. And His love surpasses all.