Josh Lucas has so far made a career of playing less than savory characters, from a vapid narcissist in AMERICAN PSYCHO to a sleazy club owner leading a minor astray in THE DEEP END. With Jake, the not-quite-ex-husband of Reese Witherspoon’s Melanie in SWEET HOME ALABAMA, he gets to play a nice guy for a change, which, to my surprise, he said he found to be a bigger challenge than playing a villain. When I spoke with Lucas on September 13, 2002, the conversation ranged from reuniting, sort of, with Witherspoon, losing his native southern accent to the perils of life as an actor. The re-enactment he talks about would be of the Civil War, done by authentic re-enactors.
When you’ve got a script as slight at the one in SWEET HOME ALABAMA, it’s important to cast it with actors who are nothing less than sterling. Fortunately, that’s the case here. The tale is of Melanie, an ex-pat southern girl who has conquered New York and its Prince Charming returning home for a divorce that may or may not be what she really wants.
We pretty much know how it will all turn out and the stops along the way. The spats that show that sparks still fly, the eccentric parents who simultaneously nurture and embarrass our heroine, and the old friends that are alienated but still true blue is strictly formula. Soaring above the material is Witherspoon, bringing a tender feistiness to the ex-pat and Lucas a laid-back sexiness as the husband she left behind. Almost stealing the show from them are Fred Ward and Mary Kay Place as Earl and Pearl, Melanie’s double-wide dwelling parents and an acerbic Candace Bergen as Melanie’s future mother-in-law who is also the mayor of New York. The cast and a script that doesn’t mock the good things about the south make the film enjoyable if not memorable.
S The film co-stars Patrick Dempsey and Jean Smart. It was directed by Jake Tennant from a story by Douglas J. Eboch and a script by C. Jay Cox.