Yuppies hit the bottle, too.
That's the lesson of When a Man Loves a Woman, in which pretty Meg Ryan falls through a glass shower door, sweats out detox and fights to reclaim alienated husband Andy Garcia--all without messing up her hair or smudging her makeup. This is another gooey TV "issue" movie posing as big-screen fare, and you'd do well to keep your six bucks unless you think scenic views of San Francisco and strolls through sun-dappled meadows are the real horrors of alcoholism.
At first glimpse, everything's hunky-dory for pert elementary schoolteacher Alice Green (Ryan) and dashing airline pilot Michael Green (Garcia). They've got the vintage BMW out at the curb and a nice selection of Amy Tan novels in the library. Their careers are just swell, their two little daughters are cute as buttons, and they live in the kind of Russian Hill house the mayor might kill for--complete with the obligatory Amnesty International sticker on the front door.
Sex life? Hey, no problem. These two are still a couple of major rodents in heat.
But Alice has a quart of vodka stashed in every drawer.
Ever since Ray Milland reeled through The Lost Weekend and Jack Lemmon broke all those flower pots in Days of Wine and Roses, Hollywood has tackled alcoholism with the devotion of a Mississippi preacher. But only rarely has a movie on the subject looked so squeaky-clean and tidy: The most "shocking" scene here is when drunken Alice slaps her daughter; the second is when she manages to shudder once or twice. Otherwise, Alice is falling decorously out of rowboats in the Mexican moonlight and gamboling in the sunset.
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While Gidget goes to rehab, director Luis Mandoki injects more artificial uplift into When a Man Loves a Woman than one of those new English bras. This is a tale of true love's persistence, don't you know, so no bump in the road, no matter how severe, is about to put this marriage asunder. Ryan and Garcia play enough kissy-face to satisfy any National Enquirer reader.
Meanwhile, neither the sources nor the agonies of Alice Green's alcoholism get much attention. Writers Ronald Bass (Rain Man) and Al Franken (Saturday Night Live) leave those crucial issues fashionably open-ended, with the possible exception of the victim's demanding mother (Ellen Burstyn). Instead of facing the problems head-on, the movie seems more interested in lovely pictures, tender caresses and the occasional attack of psychobabble. The actors, it must be said, try their hardest, but the whole thing has the facile, synthetic quality of Sunday night on the network.
When this cautionary tale is over, you might feel like staying out for a scotch on the rocks--or three.