Published Mar 01, 2005It is always unfortunate when a film with a lot of heart ends up a big mess. Case in point is Mike Binder's The Upside of Anger. Filled with great performances and wonderful scenes, the film as a whole simply doesn't add up.
Joan Allen plays Terry Wolfmeyer, a woman who is noted as "always being happy" until her husband leaves her and she becomes a drunken disaster. Her four daughters (Alicia Witt, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell, Erika Christensen) attempt to bring her out of her slump, but all she can seem to do is yell at them. Enter Denny (Kevin Costner), an ex-baseball player and neighbour who shares Terry's love for the booze. The two hit it off and the remainder of the film is a winding road of melodrama and comedy, often both at the same time.
The core of the film is the relationship between Terry and Denny, and this by far is where it works best. Costner (playing a washed-up baseball player, which is perhaps a self-aware wink at his own career, which used to often involve playing not-so-washed-up baseball players) has never been better. He really lets himself fall into the character and the result is incredibly funny and touching. And while Costner may be the scene-stealer, the soul of this film is Joan Allen. In a role written for her, Allen somehow manages to make an incredibly selfish, bitchy, and, well, angry woman into a likable character. She pulls off scenes that very few other actresses could, and her near-permanent intoxication is remarkably believable.
However, the film often strays into unmotivated and generally boring subplots involving the daughters (Keri Russell has a stomach ulcer, Evan Rachel Wood's boyfriend is gay and wants to bungee-jump), and the dialogue in some scenes is absolutely terrible. And while the cheesy and rather pretentious theme of the movie (emphasised both in the film and on its poster: "the upside of anger is the person you become") is unfounded in its conclusion, there is enough worth in the performances and chemistry of Allen and Costner to warrant the film's viewing. (Alliance Atlantis)