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Monday, 26 February 2018

Retro Review: When A Man Loves A Woman (1994)

When A Man Loves A Woman
Cast: Meg Ryan, Andy Garcia, Lauren Tom, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ellen Burstyn 
Genre: Romantic Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $50 million 

Plot: The seemingly perfect relationship between a man and his wife is tested as a result of her alcoholism 

'Alcoholic Movie Anonymous' 

Executively co-produced by Ronald Bass alongside two other executive producers and written by Bass himself and Al Franken, the previews and the trailer gave a misleading impression that this would be an endlessly sappy and mawkish affair that would take away from not only the viewing experience but the story itself. Thankfully, it so happens that this wasn't the case; but at the same time, it felt like a TV movie that isn't much to write home about.

Meg Ryan as Alice almost sheds her cutesy image as an alcoholic trying to battle her demons; her almost incredibly nuanced performance tinges on sadness, despair and frustration when she is on the verge of losing a battle she tries to control her urges. 

The pace plods on and yet in doing so the emotional aspects did hit home in some instances that it should do, and like with all of Ronald Bass's movies, it has that TV movie- feel in its tone and approach which makes it too lightweight for its own measure. I also winced through the syrupy title track of the movie, and a song that is one of my most loathed songs, ever.

I enjoyed the performances by the little girls and Andy Garcia but as it went on, the film as a drama didn't get right to the heart of the issue at hand and writer, Bass didn't delve further enough. The story isn't fully fleshed out with plotlines that don't appear to be followed through as in-depth as it should have. I don't expect very detailed explanations that would have taken away the audience's attention, but I wished it was a tad more realistic and with a script that took more risks.

When A Man Loves A Woman is not the romantic drama it has been dubbed as and it is more akin to a Lifetime movie, but thanks to Andy Garcia, the young daughters, it's not so bad. Meg Ryan is a good actress, but seeing her character being difficult and dislikeable and frustrated as a boozy wife was a bit of a frustrating watch at times. I do think she can handle dramas that take her away from her rom-com image & showing her conviction as a dramatic actress, but with difficult and cagey subjects she hasn't completely shown her absolute versatility. She just hasn't had more of those opportunities and when they arrive, very few are good. & when she does a complete 180 - like with In The Cut 10 years after this movie, other than being a terrible movie, - she comes off as being intolerant and dislikable as her character/s. 

Ronald Bass has had a long history of successful movies that have made well over $50-60 million each. Some examples being Stepmom, Waiting To Exhale and The Joy Luck Club. But as admirable as most of his efforts are, sometimes, he approaches themes and storylines with little potency and not enough meat to make it mind-blowing. The sheer pain and ugliness of alcoholism, but for one latter confrontation scene with Alice and Michael, are never realised to make the type of impact it ought to do and Alice's problems never escalated to such levels that were so bad and so life-threatening enough to me to not only show concern towards herself, but for Michael, Amy & the kids. 

Because that didn't happen, it just felt like that pay-off wasn't so assured. 

Final Verdict:

When the film finished, I just felt the execution by Ronald Bass and Luis Mandoki wasn't quite spectacular enough to be truly memorable for years to come and whilst Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan do well individually, I wasn't able to buy into them as a couple and their chemistry didn't come through for me. 

I did like the last scene, but that was scant consolation for what should have been a movie that should have turned out to be something truly special and worthwhile. At best it is moderately sufficient, but its handling of the subject matter just wasn't as credible and that it lacked depth. 


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