In 1994, Percy Sledge's greatest hit became the title for a movie starring Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan. The movie is supposed to mirror the woeful romance Sledge professes to a woman who "can bring him such misery." The script was written by Ron Bass (of Snow Falling on Cedars, What Dreams May Come, and Waiting to Exhale fame) and Al Franken, whose screenwriting is limited to comedy television. Their marriage in screenplay writing is awkward. Here's why:
When a Man Loves a Woman is supposed to portray Alice Green (Ryan)'s struggle with alcoholism. As the movie begins, we see an interesting life: a woman married to a successful pilot, with two darling little girls, who likes to drink and do silly things. Her husband Michael half cleans up her messes, half encourages her nonsense. One can only guess that Garcia's going for codependent husband, but the script doesn't really further that end.
After an anticlimactic rock bottom episode, wherein Alice comes home in the afternoon, slaps her daughter for doing her homework, and falls in the shower, she decides to quit drinking. A noble endeavor, no doubt. But her reasons for drinking, and for now wanting to be sober, are never really mentioned. One day her husband just scoops her up and takes her to rehab.
In rehab, her addiction becomes evident and her behavior seems more harsh than before. Suddenly there are huge struggles to overcome that, through the beginning of the movie, were basically non-existant. I'd like to think this was director Luis Mandoki's goal--that he wanted to show how alcoholism can be hidden--but it's more likely the result of an ill-composed screenplay. The message just doesn't come across.
The rest of the movie features Alice's transformation into a powerful, independent woman and her family's inability to change with her. This movie is less of a serious commentary on the effects of alcoholism than it is a perfect time-filler on Lifetime. Still, it's not a bad way to couch.