When A Man Loves A Woman

Apart from a confusing and unnecessary beginning and slick and corny Hollywood ending, this is a fairly serious and honest (if a mite overlong) tearjerker about the delicate and subtle relationship between a family’s dysfunctionality and the wife’s alcoholism: not merely what unspoken forces drive her to drink, but also to what extent the husband relies on her weakness both before and after she stops drinking. The family consists of an airline pilot (Andy Garcia), schoolteacher (Meg Ryan), and two young daughters, and while no one in the cast can be accused of underplaying, everyone does a creditable enough job under the occasionally lax direction of Luis Mandoki (whose variable talent in such projects as White Palace and the atrocious Born Yesterday remake is fully evident here), despite the avalanche of syrupy music competing for attention. The script by Ronald Bass and Al Franken steers refreshingly clear of putting hard-won understandings into the mouths of clinical professionals, preferring to let the couple make their own discoveries; with Tina Majorino, Mae Whitman, Lauren Tom, and a cameo by Ellen Burstyn. (JR)

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