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The Upside of Anger

The Upside of Anger
Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Evan Rachel Wood, Erika Christensen, and Alica Witt

Rated: R
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 11, 2005 Released by: New Line Cinema

Joan Allen is an early contender for acting accolades as she is the focus of an unsentimental family drama, The Upside of Anger. Not the kind of title that will be easy to recall.

But, under the direction of Mike Binder (who also does the writing), Allen gives middle-aged suburban wife and mother Terry Wolfmeyer much dimension. The story takes off from a funeral and Terry reacts harshly to her husband leaving her for his Swedish secretary. One of her daughters acknowledges at the start that her mother has become a sad and bitter woman. And her loathing brings her closer to alcohol, as the headstrong woman has to raise her four daughters by herself.

Binder, who made the ensemble comedy Indian Summer, gives a role for Kevin Costner (Open Range) that he settles into quite comfortably. He’s vulnerable and charmingly scruffy as Denny, Terry’s neighbor, a radio DJ after his baseball stardom faded. He becomes more than someone she can drink with as he likes to be in the company of her daughters, Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood), Andy (Enrika Christensen), Emily (Keri Russell), and Hadley (Alicia Witt).

Binder even has a nice supporting part for himself as Shep, Denny’s smarmy radio producer, as one of the subplots has Andy getting a job at the station. The Upside of Anger goes through some noticeable shifts, like Terry’s emotions, and the title is observed in a cause-and-effect relationship. The quartet of young actresses endow their characters with the right amount of angst to make Allen’s wrath something out of Jane Austen with less tolerance.

But, with all of the familial discord, there is something bristling with compassion and suppressed feeling that ultimately is painfully truthful. Costner’s easygoing wit and Allen’s mercurial, often fierce performance cover over any marks in the plotting near the end leaving this upside to be an unmitigated, poignant and stinging success.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Upside of Anger B     B+     B- B

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