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Sweet Home Alabama (2002) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • Melanie Carmichael, an up and rising fashion designer in New York, has gotten almost everything she wished for since she was little. She has a great career and the JFK-like fiancée of New York City. But when he proposes to her, she doesn't forget about her family back down South. More importantly, her husband back there, who refuses to divorce her ever since she sent divorce papers seven years ago. To set matters straight, she decides to go to the south quick and make him sign the papers. When things don't turn out the way she planned them, she realizes that what she had before in the south was far more perfect than the life she had in New York City.

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  • Melanie Carmichael is a successful up and coming Manhattan fashion designer, seen as the one to watch in the industry. She grew up in a privileged environment on Carmichael Plantation in Pigeon Creek, Alabama, which is at least what she wants her social circle to believe, that social circle including her work associates, and her fiancé, Andrew Hennings, a politician and son of the image conscious Mayor of New York City, Kate Hennings. The Hennings' foresee the White House in Andrew's future. The truth about Melanie's upbringing is that she grew up poor Melanie Smooter in Pigeon Creek. Her mother, Pearl Smooter, encouraged Melanie to get out of Pigeon Creek at any cost to have a better life for herself. Melanie initially ignored that advice and married her childhood sweetheart, Jake Perry, fresh out of high school. They got married solely because she was pregnant, she ultimately miscarrying. Since she left Pigeon Creek and Jake seven years ago, Melanie has tried to get a divorce from Jake, signing divorce papers which he has refused to do. As such, she heads back to Pigeon Creek for the first time in seven years to finalize the divorce before she can marry Andrew, and before the Hennings discover not only her true background but that she is already married. Jake, a fishing guide, still lives in the same small, rural house where he and Melanie lived. He still refuses to sign the divorce papers, seemingly just to make life difficult for her. So, it's not an in and out trip as Melanie had hoped. As Melanie and Jake try to one-up the other in their marriage battle, Melanie reconnects with many of her childhood friends and acquaintances, all who have their own opinion of Melanie based on her leaving Pigeon Creek. The longer she stays, the greater the chance the world, including the Hennings, will discover the truth. What may also threaten Melanie's life with Andrew is if Melanie discovers the real reason why Jake won't sign the papers, and what he has been doing the past seven years without her.

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  • Sophisticated Melanie Carmichael, a rising New York clothing designer suddenly finds herself engaged to the city's most eligible bachelor. But this is no fairy tale romance for Melanie. She has skeletons in her fashion-filled closet that include Jake - the backwoods husband she married in high school who refuses to divorce her. Determined to end their marriage and sever all ties with her past once and for all, Melanie returns to Alabama. But home starts to tug at her heartstrings, and what she thought she wanted may not be what she wants at all.

  • A young woman who's reinvented herself as a New York socialite must return home to Alabama to obtain a divorce from her husband, after seven years of separation.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The story is a love triangle involving two childhood Alabama sweethearts who married but became estranged, Jake Perry and Melanie Smooter (Lucas and Witherspoon), and Melanie's boyfriend of 8 months, Andrew Hennings (Dempsey).

    The film starts at a beach in Alabama during a thunderstorm with two children chasing each other (10 yr old Melanie and Jake) who kiss but get struck by lightning. Then it goes to present day with Melanie now a successful fashion designer in New York City. When she becomes engaged to Andrew, the son of the mayor of New York City, Melanie announces that she has to go back home alone to Alabama to tell her parents in person. Her private reason is to demand a divorce from Jake. She has not told Andrew that she is still married.

    Jake refuses to divorce her until one night she gets drunk and explains to everyone in the bar that the reason she married Jake was because she was pregnant, and she later had a miscarriage. Jake becomes angry with her and takes her home. When she wakes up the next morning, the divorce papers are laying on her bed signed by Jake.

    Melanie learns that Jake had once gone to New York City to try to find her, because he still loved her. That night, she goes to the cemetery to tell her old coon dog Bear good bye. Jake shows up and explains how he told the dog that her disappearance was his fault and they end up talking about why the marriage did not work, the baby they lost, and why she left. Jake gives a blessing for Melanie to have a good life with Andrew, but Melanie says she cannot do it and kisses Jake. Jake pushes her away, however, and tells her to go home.

    The next day, Andrew arrives in town. Jake meets him and discovers that he is Melanie's fiancée. Jake, identifying himself as Melanie's cousin, brings Andrew to Melanie. Andrew finds out that Melanie is still married to Jake and runs off angrily.

    Melanie returns to her parents' house where her father walks in with Andrew. Andrew tells her how sorry he is and how he still wants to marry her. They decide to have the wedding in Alabama and Andrew's mother comes down from New York. On her wedding day, as she is walking down the aisle, her lawyer shows up and explains that Jake has signed the divorce papers, but she has not. Melanie decides to not sign the papers, and that she does not want to marry Andrew, because she still loves Jake, which Andrew understands. She runs away from her wedding to go find Jake, who is on the same beach where, years ago, ten-year-old Jake had told her that he wanted to marry her "so I can kiss you anytime I want."

    Melanie tells him that she did not marry Andrew because she wanted to be with him so that she could kiss him whenever she wanted too. As Jake and Melanie kiss, Wade, the town sheriff, interrupts them by taking them back Jake's mother's bar, where all of their friends and family are waiting.

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