Meg Ryan is a fine actress who has made some excellent films, but few people remember that fact because along the way she has made two key mistakes: 1) she rode her cuteness like a horse until it was lame and tired, and then kicked it to death and 2) many of the great movies she has made have incredibly stupid titles. Here are three great films that sadly, are rarely seen for those very reasons.
• Joe Vs. the Volcano (1990)--Joe's miserable life changes in strange and marvelous ways after he is informed that he is dying from a "brain cloud." Mention this movie in most circles and watch the snickers fly. Ignore them; it's one of the quirkier mainstream entertainments ever made. Where else will you find a movie where the most beautiful and fascinating set piece is an anal probe company? And of course Meg Ryan is stellar; skillfully and humorously transforming herself into three distinct characters who help Joe along his journey of discovery. Tom Hanks is good, too.
• When A Man Loves A Woman (1994)--I know how it looks: it stars Meg Ryan, and it's named after a remake of a song made famous by Michael Bolton. To the untrained eye, it appears to be a gift straight from the fires of Hell. In actuality, this film is a profoundly careful and moving study of an alcoholic mom trying to get her life back together. Ryan, amazingly, shoves her cuteness aside and turns in a phenomenal performance as the struggling parent.
• Addicted To Love (1997)--A generic sounding film with a preposterous premise, and yet, this story of two people stalking their ex-lovers with impossibly sophisticated technology is surprisingly good, thanks to Ryan's performance as the punky, afflicted Maggie. Okay, so Ryan rests on her cute haunches a bit, but Matthew Broderick is pretty cute himself, and the chemistry they share is worth a look. Not incredible, but a hell of a lot better than the title and star combination suggests.