When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)

reviewed by
Steve Rhodes

                          WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN
                       A film review by Steve Rhodes
                        Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****):  *** 1/2

If you are an alcoholic, if any of your close friends or relatives are, or if you or your close friends have a problem with anger and depression, then WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN should be in your don't miss category. It is arguably, the most realistic film ever made about the totality of an alcoholic's life from the highs to the lows and from addiction to recovery and equally important about what it does to the loved ones around them. Watch the husband and especially the kids in this movie.

Meg Ryan gives an Academy Award caliber performance as the alcoholic, and Andy Garcia does almost well as the confused and lost husband. Their two girls, played by Tina Majorino and Mae Whitman, are good actresses that don't try to overact like many youngsters. They are totally believable and thereby make you feel very sad and frighten for their characters.

The directing by Luis Mandoki takes risks with the audience by assuming they want honesty over entertainment. This is a frightening show and not a fun one. The script by Ronald Bass and Al Franken goes for the jugular in many of the scenes. A very honest portrayal of alcoholic and her loved ones.

The movie starts with the signs of alcoholism starting to rear its ugly head, but with many good times for Meg as she gets high and does lots of wild and crazy things. Soon, however, Meg is in the depths of her addition and it rules her life. She lives to drink. Her husband is oblivious to most of her problems as she can hid it so well. Halfway through the movie she does get treatment and gives up drinking, and then her life gets even worse for quite a while. She was angry and depressed while drinking, but even more so when she stops. Except with her recovered addicts, she is unbearable to be around.

This is a unhappy tale which focuses as much if not more on the husband of the alcoholic than on the alcoholic herself. When she was drinking, he had a role in her life as her (unsuccessful) savior. Once she gives up drinking, his purpose goes as well.

This is only show I can remember where they smoked, and it made sense for them to do so. It seems that many alcoholics trade booze for chain smoking as a lesser evil.

WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN is an appropriately long show at 2:06, but it needed the time to fully document the problems. It is correctly rated R for some scary and realistic material. If your teenagers want to see it, be sure and go with them and then discuss it afterwards. I award this excellent film *** 1/2. Don't miss this show!

**** = One of the top few films of this or any year. A must see film. *** = Excellent show. Look for it. ** = Average movie. Kind of enjoyable. * = Poor show. Don't waste your money. 0 = One of the worst films of this or any year. Totally unbearable.

Opinions expressed are mine and not meant to reflect my employer's.

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