When a Man Loves a Woman Review

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An airline pilot and his wife are forced to face the consequences of her alcoholism when her addictions threaten her life and their daughter's safety


Viewed solely as a movie performance, this drama of a family’s struggle to endure the ordeal of alcoholism is most welcome for affording Andy Garcia an overdue opportunity to demonstrate how beautifully he can play agonized sensitivity, while Meg Ryan bravely bucks her image to play an alcoholic whose capacity for cruelity and rage invites you to hate her. The ambitious, painful screenplay by Ronald Bass and Al Franken begins this screen love story after the marriage, children, mortage and two jobs have elbowed most of the fun, flowers and romance of a relationship into history. Michael (Garcia) is a caring, somewhat controlling husband whose busy schedule has made him slow to realize troubled Alice (Ryan) has become a mean, measy drunk who hides the vodka in the airing cupboard, abuses her elder daugther and eventually confesses to having mislaid their younger child on a boozy day’s shopping. Less about Alice’s rehab and battle with the bottle than it is about the devastation alcoholism (or indeed any disease) has on those around the one with the acknowledged problem, this has its most affecting, hanky-wringing moments when Garcia and Tina Majorino as eight-year-old Jess become the victims of this tale. Director Luis Mandoki has not been able to resist sprinkling a Hollywood sugar coating on proceedings, however, that detracts from the serious intent in the writing of a dysfunctional family with a recognizable, all-too-everyday crisis upon them. Presented with a handsome, commited husband, darling kids, lovely San Francisco home, and colourful domestic help, what the hell is(ital) Alice’s problem? Much then fails to ring terribly true, and the plodding pacing also works against the intense effort to involve the audience in all the emotional turns. But this pushes enough buttons to be moving, and is to be applauded as an all-too-rare attempt from the mainstream to grapple with grim, grown-up reality, even if it comes prettified and well-dressed.

Solid rom-com with a darker edge