Picks and Pans Review: When a Man Loves a Woman

updated 05/02/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/02/1994 01:00AM

Meg Ryan, Andy Garcia

Ryan is a school guidance counselor, the mother of two young girls, and an alcoholic; Garcia is her second husband, an airline pilot and an enabler in this pallid, mawkish drama of a family in crisis.

At first glance, everything seems fine; Ryan and Garcia appear to be a dizzyingly happy couple. But look closer and all is amok. As Garcia explains to his stepdaughter (Tina Majorino), Mommy is often sick. She disappears for extended periods and returns with weak excuses. Or she slips outside at night to gulp furtively from newspaper-wrapped vodka bottles. After almost drowning in a drinking-related accident while on a weekend getaway with Garcia, Ryan vows to cut down, quickly falls off the wagon and ends up in a treatment center. Yet when she comes out sober, edgy and accusatory, Garcia, who had been, if anything, too supportive, doesn't know how to handle this new wife.

It's a compelling situation. Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem more interested in pressing easy emotional buttons—there is many a tender, teary scene with Garcia and the two kids—than in telling a story. And it's unclear just which story they want to tell. This movie is a little bit the saga of an alcoholic, a little bit about a man trying to cope with an alcoholic wife, and a little bit the story of an alcoholic wife trying to cope with a husband who's trying to cope. But it's never enough of any one thing. (R)

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