FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

* BAD GIRLS - So is the movie. Hoping to wring new commercial possibilities from a genre that's more risky than it used to be, this gimmicky western features four of today's most fashionable female stars (Madeleine Stowe, Mary-Louise Parker, Andie McDowell, and Drew Barrymore) as prostitutes-with-hearts-of-gold who want to shed their shady pasts, dodge the bad guys on their trail, and start respectable new lives on the old frontier. The story is hopelessly trite, except for the presence of women in roles formerly reserved for men, and it's hard to say which of the actresses does the poorest job of wrestling with the clumsy dialogue and hokey situations. You'd never guess the director was Jonathan Kaplan, who used to have a knack for turning trashy screenplays into vigorous entertainments like ``White Line Fever'' and ``Heart Like a Wheel.'' There's little to applaud here except cinematographer Ralf Bode's attractive shots of Southwestern scenery. (Rated R)

* WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN - Meg Ryan plays a middle-class mother with a severe alcohol problem, and Andy Garcia plays the devoted husband who encourages her to overcome her illness with professional help. The movie takes a constructive approach to its troubling subject, in the tradition of respected dramas like ``The Lost Weekend'' and ``Days of Wine and Roses,'' but it's so slickly produced that the emotional ups and downs have far less impact than they should. Only one or two scenes convey a vivid sense of alcoholic chaos and destructiveness; the rest of the film wobbles between soap-opera histrionics and too-familiar plot twists paving the way for a feel-good finale. Also unfortunate is the movie's insistence on giving Garcia most of the good scenes and memorable lines, as if male-dominated Hollywood couldn't help finding the man of the house more interesting than the afflicted woman who's supposedly the central character. Directed by Luis Mandoki. (Rated R)

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