Stars Fell on Alabama Plays Within Rom-Com Rules

Ciara Hanna and James Maslow in Stars Fell on Alabama. Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Stars Fell on Alabama, a film with a Hollywood twist, is the first romantic comedy film to be released in theaters or VOD in 2021.

Before I dive into the film, you should know that there are short clips during the credits.  Aside from this, there is a post-credits tag.  The other thing to know about the film is it is set during 2019.  This way, you don’t have to scream about so many people being in violation of Covid-19 protocols.

A lot of films tend to be set in either New York or Los Angeles.  Robert Windom’s screenplay changes things up early on by having Hollywood agent Bryce Dixon (James Maslow) return to Alabama for his high school reunion in Willow Springs.  One thing I can say about the film’s opening is that it features so many Hollywood highlights in the span of a few minutes.  If you’re a fan of visiting or touring the Hollywood studios, it’ll be a sight for sore eyes.  But I digress.

When we first meet Bryce or Dixie as his high school friends know him, he is working on booking client Madison Belle (Ciara Hanna) for a blockbuster role.  Meanwhile, on-again, off-again rock star boyfriend Zane Thomas (Zebedee Row) wants to visit and patch things out.  Not long after this and while waiting for the studio to make a decision, Bryce “books” Madison for a few days in Alabama.  On the one hand, she can use the distraction from Zane.  But on the other hand, there are power dynamics at play here and I’ll talk about this shortly.  Bryce is essentially forced into doing this because he’s still single and all of his high school friends are married with children.  What other way spells success than by bringing home a Hollywood star?  Being Jewish, the pressure is something I’m all too familiar with.

Bryce and Madison are off to Willow Springs for a few days where the city does all sorts of promotions.  Madison is asked to judge the windows on Main Street.  And sure enough, Zane finds a way to ruin the celebration by coming to town.  While Zane is messing up their plans, Madison learns she landed the role.

Because romantic comedies are required to include an brief time in which the couples break up, this film makes sure to fulfil its obligations.  But–wait for it!–the mayor’s wife is the reason for their falling apart!  It’s bad enough that Bryce hasn’t been back in 15 years but to try and break up a “fake relationship” by cheating on your husband is taking things a bit too far!  Again, genre law dictates that something must break them up.  Obviously, the filmmakers could certainly have done something different here.  Is the ending cliché?  Of course!  Rom-coms are required by genre law to have a happy ending. However, Stars Fell on Alabama largely plays within genre rules without straying far if at all.

Right off the bat, the one problematic thing I noticed is the power dynamics in the movie.  Bryce Dixon is a Hollywood agent.  Madison Belle is Bryce’s client.  Bryce brings Madison to the reunion under false pretenses but I noticed that when they do realize what’s happening, he tells her that she’ll need to get a new agent.  Both screenwriter and director are men so please consider this some food for thought.  But once you put this aside, the film is a charming romantic comedy with a happy ending.  In addition to directing the film, VW Scheich also edits the film.  There’s some crafty work especially during a reunion football game with multiple camera angles being utilized here. But aside from this, nothing too fancy is going on.

SCREENWRITER:  Robert Windom
CAST:  James Maslow, Ciara Hanna, Mike Bash, Lesa Wilson, Johnnie Mack, Justin Clark, Taylor Hicks

Samuel Goldwyn Films releases Stars Fell on Alabama on VOD on January 8, 2021.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.