This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Among the pieties that Hollywood preaches but does not believe is the notion that small towns are preferable to big cities. Film after film rehearses this belief: Big cities are repositories of greed, alienation and hypocrisy, while in a small town you will find the front doors left unlocked, peach pies cooling on the kitchen window sill, and folks down at the diner who all know your name. "Sweet Home Alabama" is the latest, admittedly charming, recycling of this ancient myth.
The fact is that few people in Hollywood have voluntarily gone home again since William Faulkner fled to Mississippi. The screenwriters who retail the mirage of small towns are relieved to have escaped them. I await a movie where a New Yorker tries moving to a small town and finds that it just doesn't reflect his warm-hearted big city values.
Reese Witherspoon, who is the best reason to see "Sweet Home Alabama," stars as Melanie Carmichael, a small-town girl who moves to the Big Apple and while still in her 20s becomes a famous fashion designer. She's in love with Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), a JFK Jr. lookalike whose mother (Candice Bergen) is mayor of New York. After he proposes to Melanie in Tiffany's, which he has rented for the occasion, she flies back home to Alabama to take care of unfinished business.
Specifically, she doesn't want Andrew to discover that she is already married to a local boy, and that her family doesn't own a moss-dripped plantation. Her folks live in a luxury mobile home with lots of La-Z-Boys and knitted afghans (La-Z-Boy: the sign of a home where the man makes the decisions). Her husband, Jake (Josh Lucas), was her high school sweetheart, but, looking ahead at a lifetime of dirty diapers and dishes with a loser, she fled north. His plan: prove himself, to earn her respect and get her back again. That's why he's never given her the divorce.