Sweet Home Alabama is a 2002 American romantic comedy directed by Andy Tennant, starring Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey and Candice Bergen. The film was released on September 27, 2002 by Touchstone Pictures.
Melanie Carmichael (Witherspoon) is a rising New York fashion designer who is recently engaged to Andrew Hennings (Dempsey), the man of her dreams. Her life is perfect... except that her name is actually Melanie Smooter, and she's still legally married to Jake Perry (Lucas), her childhood sweetheart. She flies home to Pigeon Creek, Alabama to force Jake to finally sign the divorce papers and, once there, finds that she misses her former home, friends, and even her soon-to-be ex-husband. Worse, her fiance and his mother show up unexpectedly and they decide to have the wedding in Alabama, forcing Melanie to confront her past rather than run from it.
Sweet Home Alabama provides examples of:
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: A drunken Melanie ends up insulting a lot of people at the bar to tr and aggravate Jake and blurting out unpleasant truths, something she's a lot more awkward about after sobering up.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Melanie and Jake. Lampshaded in the final scene when Bobby Ray replaces the bride and groom figurine on top of the purloined wedding cake with the combatants from the bar's "Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots" game.
- Big Applesauce: Melanie moved to New York after she left Jake.
- Big Fancy House: The Carmichael Plantation, Bobby Ray's home. Melanie lies to a New York Post reporter who's really a private detective, hired by Andrew's mother claiming that the house is actually her childhood home.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Andrew's mother, Kate.
- Melanie qualifies as well during some of her more abrasive moments.
- Brick Joke: Jake talking about the cat Melanie put a bomb on seems to just be an urban legend that Jake is exaggerating when he describes how it supposedly survive but then it does show up at the party at the end, licking at the cake.
- Bridal Carry: Played for Laughs when Jake drives a very drunk Melanie back to her parents' house. She passes out by the time he gets there and he hauls her in the house, snoring. Also Played for Laughs at the end of the movie, when Jake carries Melanie into their years-late reception this way, only to put her down and reveal they are, in fact, handcuffed together.
- By-the-Book Cop: Sheriff Wade refuses to just arrest Melanie or kick her out of Jake's house (at least until Jake mentions a certain bench warrant) due to them still being married and it technically just being a non-violent domestic dispute, and also can't do anything to help Melanie pressure Wade.
- Camp Gay: Melanie's associate Frederick.
- Childhood Marriage Promise: Jake to Melanie when they were 10 years old.
- City Slicker: Kate and Andrew.
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Even though Andrew is jilted at the altar, the end credits show Melanie reading his wedding announcement to a New York socialite.
- Convenient Miscarriage: The reason why Melanie and Jake split up after their Shotgun Wedding.
- Christianity is Catholic: The officiant at Andrew and Melanie's wedding is a priest in the traditional frock. This might be Andrew's mother's doing, but it stands out, since the Deep South is largely Protestant, including Alabama, and usually averts this trope hard.
- Demoted to Extra: Melanie's intern Erin (who turns out to be a Vanderbilt) is in several deleted scenes with Melanie and Andrew, including having a bit of a rapport with Melanie about having both started out as internships, but in the final film is omitted aside from a brief appearance in a photo during the closing credits scene showing her getting married to Andrew.
- Disposable Fiancé: Poor Andrew. He seems to take it well, though.
- Divorce Is Temporary: Played with. Melanie and Jake never finalize their divorce and end up getting back together.
- Enormous Engagement Ring: When she finds out her son is engaged, Kate mentions that Melanie is wearing 'a skating rink on a very important finger.'
- Everyone Can See It: Melanie's chief model/bridesmaid Tabatha picks up on her feelings for Jake within seconds of seeing them together even while she's still with Andrew.
- Failed a Spot Check: Lampshaded when Andrew's mother grumbles about what happened to responsible journalism after finding out that Melanie lied about her past to reporters and never got caught.
- Failed Attempt at Drama: When Jake and Melanie have their first fight, Jake closes his door on Melanie then pulls the shade down on her dramatically, but the shade keeps shooing up and refusing to stay down.
- Fat and Skinny: Jake's friends Eldon and Clinton.
- First Guy Wins: Melanie and Jake knew each other as children, were already married at the beginning of the film, and we see young!Jake in a flashback in the opening sequence. Guess who she ends up with?
- Fish out of Water: Melanie's parents have refused to go see her in New York due to feeling this. Sensing that, she volunteers to have the wedding out South to make up for them. Averted with Andrew himself when he comes out there.
- Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Jake, in spades. Ironically, Melanie ends up being the one who fails to sign the divorce papers.
- Former Teen Rebel: Melanie and Jake, as shown by one of their arguments when he's trying to convince the sheriff to arrest her.Jake: I supposed shoplifting steaks from Winn Dixie's okay?
Melanie: Oh, Oh! I took 'em back and you know it!
Jake: What about that incident of vandalism in the stockyard... totally her!
Melanie: Like I could tip a cow... by myself!
Jake: Wade, isn't there some outstanding for whoever drove your mama's tractor into the fishing pond?
Melanie: (horrified realizing what he meant) OH!
- Formerly Fat: Wade's wife, the bank teller, whose lost over a hundred pounds since High School.
- Friendly Rival: Melanie notes that she and Frederick are rival designers but neither seems that threatened by the other with him dropping by to congratulate her on an upcoming show, and also being invited to the wedding. The fact that she started out working for him and he views her as a protege helps.
- Gay Euphemism: When Melanie asks Bobby Ray about his high school girlfriend, he says she's a softball coach in Nashville, and Melanie seems to catch his drift about the implications. Subverted later, when Melanie tries to use euphemisms while outing Bobby Ray, before just yelling that he should go to a gay bar.
- Heart Is Where the Home Is: We have an Alabama vs. New York love triangle (which, granted, are about as different as different countries to some people).
- I Just Want to Be Special: Implied to be the reason why Melanie ran away to New York City after her miscarriage.
- In-Series Nickname: Melanie is known around her hometown as "Felony Melanie." She doesn't appear to mind very much, beyond some eye-rolling.
- Jerkass: Melanie is absolutely unpleasant to be around, especially when she drunkenly insults everyone in a bar. She gets better as the film goes on though.
- Kissing Cousins: Played for Laughs when Jake pretends to be Melanie's cousin to Andrew and then he finds out they used to be together before realizing that she was lying about their relationship.Andrew: You married your cousin?
- A Minor Kidroduction: Melanie's dream at the beginning of the film; also introduces their Childhood Marriage Promise.
- Married Too Young: Another implied reason for the failure of Melanie and Jake's marriage.
- Mistaken for Cheating: In a Meta sense, the reason Erin was Demoted to Extra was because test audiences misinterpreted a scene where she was flirting with Andrew and he was turning her down for him returning her interest.
- Nice to the Waiter: A deleted scene has Melanie snapping at Erin for spilling coffee, but then afterwards login over to her to apologize, saying she's done ok and ruefully noting about how she'd always told herself that she wouldn't be the kind of person to get mad at her assistants back when she was an intern.
- Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: Played with. Both Jake and Melanie are aware they got married, that's kind of the plot of the film, but they both forget the legal implications of this. Such as when Jake tries to get Melanie removed from his home by the sheriff, only to be told because they're still married it's her house, too, or when Melanie goes to the bank to find she still has access to their joint checking account.
- Open Secret: Bobby Ray Carmichael's sexuality. When Melanie drunkenly outs him, all the women (and several of the men) present are horrified on his behalf, suggesting that they already knew.
- Pair the Spares: The only two gay characters in the film share a sexually-charged look during the non-divorce party at the end of the film.
- Porn Stache: Sheriff Wade.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Melanie lies to Andrew and publicly humiliates him, dumping him at the altar. But it's romantic, apparently.
- Rich Bitch: Melanie.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Andrew vs Jake.
- Rom Com Job: Melanie is a fashion designer, Jake makes glassware.
- Romantic Rain: After leaving Andrew at the altar, Melanie goes to find Jake to tell him she didn't sign the divorce papers and didn't get married, and their reconciliation happens on the beach in the pouring rain.
- Self-Made Man: Jake starts a glassware business that turns successful, in order to win Melanie back.
- Shotgun Wedding: The reason Jake and Melanie were married in the first place. They broke up after her Convenient Miscarriage.
- Simple Country Lawyer: Mr.. Buford, Melanie's dapper, heavily-accented divorce lawyer.
- Split-Screen Phone Call: A deleted scene between Andrew, Kate, Melanie and Tabatha all on the phone.
- Straight Gay: Bobby Ray.
- Sweet Home Alabama: Obviously.
- Technologically Blind Elders: The local bank owner has refused to get an ATM due to feeling it robs customers of personal interactions.
- The City vs. the Country: Essentially the plot of the film.
- Unable to Support a Wife: It's implied that Jake thinks this is the reason Melanie left him, and he's trying to become a Self-Made Man with his glass business so that she will come back to him.
- Vicariously Ambitious: Melanie's mother entered her in all kinds of pageants and urged her to move out of town for her whole life. Andrew's mother Kate also wants him to be president someday (not that she isn't successful herself).
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Andrew invites Melanie to a building with the lights out, then turns on the lights to show her that they're in Tiffany's, telling her to pick whichever ring she wants.
- Wham Line: Right when Melanie's being walked down the aisle, Mr. Buford interrupts the wedding to deliver one to her.Melanie: Mr. Buford, [Jake] signed the papers, what are you doin' here?
Mr. Buford: He did. ...You didn't.
- Earlier, when Melanie shows up a Jake's house and demands a divorce, with the audience having been unaware of her marriage before that.