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When a Man Loves a Woman: Film Analysis

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By heatherlarocque8
Words 2152
Pages 9
Heather T. LaRocque
Homework Assignment: When A Man Loves A Woman – Movie Essay & Thoughts
July 24, 2013
Denise Sullivan

The movie “When A Man Loves A Woman” is an extremely powerful reflective movie regarding the affects of drug addiction on an individual as well as the destruction of the family unit. I would have to say that this movie is one of my all-time favorite movies. Has been and always will be. From the moment I had seen the movie when it aired on the big screen in 1994. It was most pivotal at that time since I have dealt with an individual whom was an alcoholic. I cannot recall even to date how many times I have seen this movie but what I can state is that being an addict in recovery myself from alcohol addiction, each and every time I see this movie, a new outlook or concept is gained from seeing the movie. I used to think this may have been due to wearing “rose colored” glasses with regard to addiction. After re-thinking that thought, I would suffice to say that the reasoning behind the differences each time after viewing the movie, it would be due more to the fact that as I progress deeper into my own recovery time, I am learning and growing. I am beginning to understand the thinking and feelings of an alcoholic. I have had to get “real” with myself and others and the more I am able to practice that along with the twelve steps my thoughts will be broadened. It is extremely clear from the beginning of the movie that the family dynamic as a whole is struggling with the concept of feelings and showing emotion. The characters in the movie are Alice, her husband Michael and the children Jess and Casey and the nanny Amy. After viewing the movie again during class, the addiction issues as well as several psychological issues within the family are seen by me more openly. It runs the gamut of: hungry, angry, lonely, tired, as well as psychological such as: effects, denial, recognition and rehabilitation. The movie depicts the disease of alcoholism and the affects on the family unit. Alice the mother, as well as the remaining members of her family, clearly is experiencing the emotional, psychological, and physical effects that alcoholism brings into the family. The disease of alcoholism is not an easy disease to have to deal with especially when coupled with depression or other manic aspects of an individual. Most often where there is an addiction, in this case alcoholism, there is depression. Alice is the main character in this movie and literally the movie is centered on her the majority of the time. Clearly from the beginning, you are able to assess that the family is experiencing some signs of repression. With her everyone is happy (even when they are not) and without her the situation is miserable and the family unit begins to crumble similar to a hand full of ritz crackers. There most often seems to be a “tension” in the air, thicker than you can cut with a knife. From viewing the movie, I was able to assess that Alice more than likely grew up in an alcoholic household herself. The characteristics were there. In the beginning Alice and Michael had went on a vacation away after a few episodes that had occurred in their lives that had involved Alice’s drinking. The maternal grandparents had come to babysit the young girls. I can recall the dialogue between the Greens on the front steps while waiting for the grandparents to arrive. Alice’s demeanor upon the arrival of her own parents viewed as though she was not looking forward to the brief reunion they were about to have. Once they had arrived it could be seen that the relationship between Alice and her mother appeared strained and there was almost no dialogue between her and her father. Prior to leaving Alice’s mother had stated that she was going to have a “big surprise” for when the Greens get home. She stated that they would come home to a “clean house”. Alice’s mother was downgrading how Alice’s home may not be cleanest and that she was going to “clean” the house. Alice never once removed her sunglasses to acknowledge her parents arrival either. The oldest daughter did not appear to be happy that they were there either. Alice is typical of the female alcoholic but in other ways she breaks the stereotypical mold as well. Alice does her drinking both in the home as well as outside the home with friends after work etc. She has hidden many bottles throughout the home so as to not run out of her magic elixir that helps her feel better on a daily basis. Alice appears throughout the movie to be manic in her actions and moods. There was never a diagnosis during the movie that she had an emotional illness such as bi-polar etc. It is clear that her illness is “alcoholism”. The children absolutely adore Alice even when her alcoholism affects them all in a negative manner. The children are young enough where they are not familiar with what is happening. They are not aware of the full concept of alcoholism nor do they understand it either. As the movie progresses however, we will see that the older of the two girls, Jess does become minimally educated with respect to “alcoholism” but in the manner that a child would be able to understand. What the children are aware of is that mommy does sleep a lot, needs to have coffee in the morning, and on occasion her voice sounds “funny”. When Alice is sober, she is similar to June Cleaver in a way from Leave It To beaver. She is the perfect mom, fun and exciting. The girls are ecstatic to be in her presence. They giggle and fool around with mom. In many instances Alice is like a single mother since Michael is a pilot and travels for work. This would be contributory to her drinking, especially in the home. She is filling a void in her life since her husband she adores is missing most of the time. Instead of her husband being her “best friend” alcohol became her “best friend”. Alice not only takes care of her family also with the help of Amy the nanny, but she is a guidance counselor at a high school where she counsels teens whom are troubled. The irony in this is that she is great guiding these students who have issues, however, she is unable to recognize for herself the issues within her own family. Alice may be trying to work through her very own personal issues thru her own job while counseling these teens. In many ways, she is reliving her own young years and trying to work thru those. She may seem trapped in her own high school years or even regressed to them. Alice outside of work is all about “fun” and does not seem all that responsible. Her life revolves around her work. There was an episode at the house in the beginning where Alice had had a few drink after work and had come home. The nanny had left and you could clearly see the pain on Alice’s face. She had an altercation with her oldest daughter pertaining to homework. Alice slapped Jess the oldest hard across the face. The terror in Jess’s face from her mom’s action. After this episode, Alice had taken a handful of aspirin and drank vodka from a bottle to go upstairs and take a shower. While in the shower she had become ill and had called out to her daughter Jess for help. Jess arrived a few moments later to see her mother laying on the floor of the bathroom with the shattered shower door glass all around her and not moving. Jess appeared terrified and managed to call her father and had stated to him that mommy was dead on the bathroom floor with the broken shower door. The incident is the real first view that something is wrong to Michael within the family and with Alice. Alice admits to Michael while in the hospital that she drinks daily and cannot stop. She was honest with Michael with regard to the level of drinking she is doing in the home and after work. She stated to Michael in the hospital that in order for her to do anything she needed to be “high”. Michael explained that he will find the best “treatment” and she was not alone. Alice goes into treatment facility. Jess the oldest daughter has now assumed the role of mommy which her mom is away. She is cooking breakfast for Casey and tries to get her ready for school. With regard to Alice it is apparent that while she was young she may have had the same family unit going on. With that being said Alice may have had to play the role to some extent of the mother with her own family. I believe Alice holds within her resentment of some sort towards her mother because of her fathers drinking. The pattern of Alice’s behavior may be being duplicated to a certain extent due to the “revolving door of addiction” model. Alice is a liar; she is depressed and engages in risk-taking behavior. She is dependent and aggressive, avoidant and anti-social. As the viewer it is difficult to understand or see what her actual behavioral characteristics are. She wears a mask since she is an alcoholic. The storyline about recovery is viewed as uneasy for both Alice and Michael and everyone else around her. She seems to feel that she needs to develop a whole new personality from the old one. Us as addicts truly believe this that we are basically two totally different people hence we need to create the personality of someone in “recovery” a whole “new” person to compensate for the lack of alcohol. It is the children of alcoholics who witness many events when parents or both are alcoholics. Children believe that they can help stop the sickness and make mommy or daddy feel better. Through even my own experiences we believe that the children are not aware of our using. In essence it is the children who can sense and know when something is amiss. There are a host of issues within this family unit that need to be corrected. Michael is a “full-fledged” enabler towards Alice. He plays the caretaker role exquisitely when it comes to Alice. When she is sober she has no issues running the house hold however, when she is drinking she has become Michaels third child. He makes her feel terrible about he drinking which then leads to further depression for Alice. It appears that Michael enjoys playing the role of the strong care taking man to Alice and the family. In the beginning of Alice’s sobriety, Michael does not seem as attracted to Alice as he has when she was using. Anytime she gets drunk he takes care of her. There is clear cut co-dependency on both sides. The movie is basically a journey of healing for all of them. Alice learns to become and stay sober, but needs to also learn how to be a mother and wife again. It is altogether different to be a “sober” mother and wife. The journey is not easy for her whatsoever. I can attest to this in my own experience after having lived in a sober-loving situation myself for 10 months. Once you leave the program, going outside and interacting with family and children is quite different. You have to relearn the roles you were associated with. There is the need for all to learn how to live and regrow from the beginning as a family. With plenty of counseling and feelings exploration this is possible. The most important part of the movie is when Alice receives her chip. She has admitted to all the fellowship that her behaviors have been that as an addict, lying. She speaks about forgiveness with herself. She also admitted that she had shut out her husband and the fear she had of him finding out about her alcoholism. She stated that we all deserved a second chance. Alice is on the right path to recovery but she is also well aware at this point that the work involved is crucial. She attends her meetings and has a sponsor. She has started equipping her “tool box” with the tools needed to be successful. As long as she keeps doing what she is doing all will be well and she will remain sober and her family will continue to flourish and grow. The damage done to the family unit can most certainly be repaired.

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