Fighting Against Life’s Limitations in ‘Suddenly’

In “Suddenly,” Kirstie Alley plays a brassy blond waitress who’s the victim of an accident that leaves her a paraplegic.

While this ABC movie is slow to get going, it eventually evokes the indignities and hardships of finding oneself abruptly forced to use a wheelchair--from the indifferent doctors to the inability to go to the bathroom without help.

To the credit of writers David and Marilyn Kinghorn, Alley’s character, Marty Doyle, is no Pollyanna, and her story manages to skirt around maudlin cliches, offering instead a portrait of a paraplegic actively resisting the unwanted turn her life has taken.

Indeed, Marty remains embittered throughout most of the movie, shunning friends and disdaining the affections of a fellow paraplegic (played by Jason Beghe). The “Cheers” alum plays a brittle survivor who would rather test her own weaknesses than admit she’s got any.


In fact, Alley’s performance is at times overbearing, but relief comes in the form of both Beghe, as the paramour in a wheelchair who cheerfully enters Marty’s life, and a German shepherd named Bob, who unwittingly teaches Marty to rely on others.

Filmed in San Pedro, “Suddenly” reunites Alley with Robert Ackerman, who directed her in “David’s Mother,” for which she won an Emmy.

* “Suddenly” airs from 9-11 p.m. Sunday on ABC (Channel 7).