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This article was first published 21 years ago  » Movies » Sweet Home Alabama could easily be a desi potboiler

Sweet Home Alabama could easily be a desi potboiler

By Deepa Gumaste
April 25, 2003 13:32 IST
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A still from Sweet Home AlabamaYou don't often see a Hollywood film that actually has all the ingredients you would find in an authentic desi potboiler. Sweet Home Alabama has a readymade recipe for success just waiting to be rehashed by our filmmakers.

Here is a cute (almost diabetic) tale, a predictable and mushy love triangle where two good-looking heroes vie for the attention of a very attractive (and remarkably dumb) heroine. There is also the popular concept of small-town goodness pitted against big-city callousness. No prizes for guessing which side wins.

From the very first minute, you know exactly how this is going to end.

Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) is an upcoming fashion designer in New York. Her wardrobe looks trendier than the clothes she designs for a very important fashion show, which fetches her rave reviews.

When she is not being written about for her designs, she is making news courtesy her affair with the dashing and rich Andrew Hennings (Patrick Dempsey), whose only claim to fame is the fact that he is the son of New York's first woman mayor and utterly snobbish Democrat, Katherine Hennings (Candice Bergen).

Despite his mother's disapproval of his relationship with a girl who just does not fit into Katherine's presidential ambitions for her beloved son, Andrew slips a huge ring on Melanie's finger and proposes marriage.

There is a minor impediment Andrew is completely unaware of. And Melanie is determined to keep it that way. She has yet to get a divorce from her childhood sweetheart, Jake (Josh Lucas), although it has been seven years since she left him behind in Pigeon Hollow, Alabama, and decided to move up in life.

She must now go to Alabama and persuade Jake to sign the papers that will grant her permanent freedom from her past, an area of her life she is embarrassed about. That explains why she has not met her parents in seven years. And the fact that she has changed her last name and invented a fictitious affluent background, another small detail Andrew knows nothing about.

Jake, the authentic cowboy (frazzled jeans, southern drawl, cocky smile and all), is still smitten by his soon-to-be-ex wife and refuses to let her go. Which means Melanie has to stay on for some more time and do everything she can to make her stubborn husband change his mind.

While she is getting reacquainted with her parents and old friends (who are wonderfully loveable, syrupy characters and therefore, completely unreal), Katherine (who is the exact opposite and, therefore, equally superficial) is busy trying to dig into her background to find the one ugly skeleton that will put her precious son off his fiancée.

As the story progresses, there are several relevant questions that keep unsettling you. Like, why did Melanie suddenly dump Jake and run away? Why is she so desperate to disown her parents?

Director Andy Tennant does provide a few answers, but they lack conviction.

If the reasons for her abrupt exit from Pigeon Hollow seem inexplicable, her ultimate decision is absolutely numbing. But, perhaps, this is the stuff happy endings are made of.

A still from Sweet Home AlabamaWith hardly any surprise or originality in the story, the onus of generating interest rests on a few noteworthy situations, like the unexpected meeting between Andrew and Jake, and on the performances of its actors. Dempsey's Andrew is too good to believe. Fortunately, the director has not given him any dark shades merely to show his rival in a better light.

Josh Lucas' dimpled smile reminds you of Matthew McConaughey's charm. He is meant to look cool and he does, although it would be interesting to watch him in a more substantial role.

Reese Witherspoon is the obvious centrepiece of Sweet Home Alabama. The film seems to have been designed just to promote her. She does show good sense of timing and is obviously adept at making men go weak in the knees.

Sweet Home Alabama is the kind of film you might like to watch on a college date. But it is nowhere in the league of romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman or One Fine Day.

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Deepa Gumaste