It is said that movies are a reflection of society. As a society that loves moving forward, it is understandable that most movies would then focus on stories that glorify the city life, full of innovation and excitement. However, on the contrary, it is seen that movies that feature places to live, often showcase cities as dark and brooding kingdoms filled with depressed people. On the other hand, movies about small towns are showcased with a simplicity and old school charm which makes it appear as if anyone not living there doesn’t have emotions.
While all these different narratives contain some form of reality, they tend to ignore the sentiments of the people who have actually escaped this small town life and went in search for greener pastures.
These people aren’t all evil, or heartless; rather they just want to live their lives in peace, while still enjoying the excitement of the big city. Representing these people is Reese Witherspoon in her role as Melanie Smooter in Sweet Home Alabama. She plays the part of a woman who escaped her boring life in Alabama in order to move to New York, where she is now a celebrated designer. In her haste to leave, she cut out countless people from her life, including her parents, friends and even her husband. As part of this movie, she has to return to her town so that she can divorce her husband before getting married to her prince charming from New York.
As you can expect from a plot like this, the movie is an obvious love triangle. But interestingly, the triangle isn’t between Melanie and her two lovers, rather it is between Melanie and the two cities; where New York represents her ambition and drive, while Alabama represent the comforts of home and the romance of a simple life.
If this were a simple movie, the plot would follow our character as she misses her New York life while trying to cope with her sense of nostalgia for her hometown. For the most part, that’s exactly what happens. However, unlike other movies this story balances a very thin line between enjoying the city life and hating the country life. It knows how to compliment both, while still making sure that the other doesn’t feel neglected.
This duality of emotion can be felt by anyone who has ever moved to a bigger city and knows how hard it is to keep your identity secure. Reese is able to represent this struggle with incredible honesty and charm, giving her character an instant likability, even though she makes a lot of mistakes in a short amount of time. You understand why she is the way is, so you can also understand what would make her do the things she does. So, in the end, when she does make the obvious choice, you don’t feel cheated because you feel like you lived all those choices with her.
Her character is what redeems this movie from becoming a cliché, and instead transforms it into a fairy tale, where a guy from a backwards town can still get the girl who got away, just by respecting her need to be herself, and blowing glass. Just like others roles that we’ve seen Reese in, this too feels like a role that she was born to play, and one that we are glad to revisit ever so often, just to reignite our romance with simple country living.