First thoughts (Sept. 26, 2002)
“The new film starring sugary-sweet Reese Witherspoon is, without a doubt, the quintessential romantic comedy — complete with the love triangle, supporting characters based on stereotypes and a predictable plot. …
The problem with the film’s plot is the lack of motivation once Melanie (Witherspoon) achieves what she sets out to do. She flies down to Alabama the day after getting engaged so she can finalize her divorce. She goes straight to Jake’s (Josh Lucas) house, and he refuses to sign the papers. Then she gets thrown in jail (somehow, this always seems to happen) and has to ask her parents to bail her out. She gets drunk and offends all of her old friends by acting better than them. And then, Jake signs the divorce papers. (We are now 30 minutes into the film.)
Why does she stay? We still do not know. …
Her whole reasoning for revisiting her dreadful past comes to fruition so early that the audience is left guessing what she’s still doing there. …
However, in the end, it’s the perfect execution of an increasingly stale formula (that can also be seen in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Someone Like You and almost every Sandra Bullock film to date), which makes you forget about the moments when it appears the actors are simply stalling for the inevitable reunion of the married couple.” — Will Albritton’s original review
After second viewing
There is still no compelling reason she stays in Alabama once the divorce papers are signed. Oh sure, she loves him. But the film, up to this point, doesn’t clue the audience in on that. It is a blatant violation of the romantic comedy code, which states, “If said audience member is supposed to believe that this could happen, there has to be a reason to care about the characters.” With that important plot piece missing, I can’t believe the action and, consequently, the reunion. The whole film is a ruse. But that’s OK, because Reese Witherspoon is so cute.
What’s on the DVD?
Actually, there is an alternate ending that makes the whole experience worthwhile. So the film plays on this event that happened when Melanie and Jake were kids, and were struck by lightning. That inspires his business, and at the end, they’re standing on the same beach as the beginning, and lightning strikes.
In the alternate ending, Jake walks into the wedding reception carrying Melanie in the threshold. He proclaims, “Melanie Carmichael is dead!” Everyone is horrified, and you’re watching this part of the DVD and saying to yourself, “Holy s–t! I can’t believe they even shot this scene.” Then, Reese opens her eyes and they start dancing and laughing and everything is swell. Oh yeah, the title-inspired song plays in the background. It is by far, the best alternate ending on any DVD I’ve seen in the past year.
On one hand, it would have made the movie. On the other, I can totally understand why they cut it.
Then director Andy Tennant comes on the TV screen and says, “As you can imagine, the test audiences didn’t like that ending version.” It’s great. The way he sets you up for the scene and then, there he is, shaking his head, almost laughing to himself.
In fact, he’s the best part of this DVD. There are about a dozen deleted scenes with introductions and follow-ups with Tennant breaking down the barrier between the director and the audience.
Most of the scenes deal with a character who had to be cut from the film because she represented an entire subplot in which Patrick Dempsey’s character may or may not have had an affair.
Contact Will Albritton at firstname.lastname@example.org