THREE STARS - WHOLESOME
The idea of a soul mate and finding that one and only person with whom we will spend our lives is the theme explored by Andy Tennant's "Sweet Home Alabama."
In a wonderfully symbolic moment, when lightning strikes and the sand beneath their feet is instantly fused into a beautiful crystal, young Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) and Jake (Josh Lucas) are also fused by the moment as they share their first kiss. Barely teens themselves, their desire to be together for life is expressed by Jake's answer to Melanie's question, "Why do you want to marry me," when he says, "So I can kiss you any time I want."
The innocence of our dreams in childhood are often as simple and binding as this moment for Melanie and Jake. Looking into the eyes of first love and wanting to bind our futures together, we hear the fairy tale's promise of living happily ever after. But as Melanie and Jake discover, it is seldom that simple and the bindings can feel more like chains than love.
In a moment of crisis after the big game when Jake, as quarterback of their hometown's team passes for the winning score, Melanie becomes pregnant in the premarital intimacy that follows. This pregnancy tests not only their beliefs and values, but their love and commitment as well. Deciding to marry, Jake responds with immaturity as he comes to the ceremony drunk and Melanie responds with relief when she subsequently miscarries their child. Free from parental responsibility Melanie flees from Alabama to New York City where in only seven years, she becomes a successful designer.
Although the humor of the film plays with the differences between city and country, New York and Alabama, Yankees and Confederates, the messages are far more universal. This is seen when the wealthy son of the mayor of New York City, Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) chooses Melanie as his bride. Although he undoubtedly is attracted to her beauty and style, it is also clear that he is choosing her in defiance of his domineering and snobbish mother (Candace Bergen).
This reality underscores the message of the film. In all families, whether north or south, rich or poor, the motivations behind our choices are a complexion of conscious and subconscious forces, some reasonable and some beyond reason.
When Melanie comes back to Alabama to get a divorce from Jake, it is then that she begins to face the world she had fled only a few years earlier. The encounter is life changing.
Revealing a lack of understanding of southern life and its Christian underpinnings, the film omits any mention of the spiritual lives of the people involved. But it clearly communicates the universal message of love. Love strikes in ways that fuse us far deeper than logic can understand or words express. Such a power is meant to be harnessed within the marriage bond and is meant to provide a continuing fusion to empower and enrich our lives. When true love is thus respected, the results are truly magical.
- Do you believe that there is one special “soul mate” with whom each of us are to share our lives? If you do, then how do you find this person – does God guide your paths, is it left to chance, or do you settle for anyone after a certain age and you haven’t found your one unique person? If you do not believe there is only one person, then what makes some people feel as though they were “bound together” at such a spiritual level? Are their bonding experiences so deep as to connect their souls? Are their physical experiences so fulfilling that there is never another desired? What happens when multiple partners dissipate the “bonding strength” of their sexual lives?
- How does one know their marriage choice is right? On what basis does one make such a decision? Is it physical attraction, social standing, personal interests, mutual values, future opportunities, or what? If there is doubt when one is about to be married is that an indication of a need to reevaluate or is it the nature of such a decision to have some reasonable doubt? How does one know the difference?
- Love is a powerful force and when it is not present in a marriage the results are devastating to both body and soul. Discuss the experiences you have had that both increased and diminished your ability to love. If you are married and are not experiencing this love, what change in behavior are you going to make to bring love back into your marriage? If you are not yet married what commitments are you going to make now to that person you will bond with in the future?