Movie Review
The Upside of Anger
The Upside of Anger poster
By Craig Younkin     Published April 2, 2005
US Release: March 11, 2005

Directed by: Mike Binder
Starring: Joan Allen , Kevin Costner , Erika Christensen , Evan Rachel Wood

Running Time: 116 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $18,761,993
There is wit, intelligence, and humanity in the way {Mike Binder} has crafted these characters.
Kevin Costner has played a baseball player in at least three of his past movies. That he is playing a retired baseball player in Mike Binder's "Upside of Anger" is an indication that he is growing as an actor. This movie is a good step for him ? a romantic, dramatic, and well-developed comedy with a strong cast that also includes Joan Allen and Binder as a radio producer.

Allen stars as Terry, an uptight mother who wakes up to find that her husband has run off with his Swedish girlfriend, leaving her with her four daughters. Costner is Denny, a former baseball player and friend of her husband's who spends his days drinking and hosting a talk radio show in which anything goes. He offers to help her during this time of emotional struggle, but is reluctant in getting too involved. He gets her daughter Andy (Erika Christensen) a job at the radio station, and also begins to build friendships with her other three daughters (Alicia Witt, Kerri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood) as well. He becomes ?the rock? that the family desperately needs.

"Upside" offers a tricky subject matter if placed into the wrong hands. It walks the edge between a melodramatic television movie and suburban sitcom, and director/screenwriter Mike Binder's most telling attribute is that he can go a little deeper. His film is as much a romantic comedy as it is a drama about single parenting, and there is wit, intelligence, and humanity in the way he has crafted these delicate, lonely, and scared characters. In a hilarious scene, Terry, fed up with feeling sorry for herself, calls Denny to ask for sex. Denny accepts but then realizes something weird is going on and so he hides in his backyard. He then calls Terry, who is waiting for him in his room, only to find out that if he doesn't have sex with her now he may never get to. She even refers to herself as Halley's Comet: ?You only get one crack every 57 years.?

It's good writing that makes us laugh, but it also gives us an indication of the character's state of mind. Binder fleshes these people out wonderfully, and what I liked even more is that he doesn't make the parenting aspect easy. Terry's life is spiraling out of control at the same time her daughters are becoming women. Boys, marriage, pregnancy, and pursuing their own dreams become a part of their lives, and it is the sincere way their stories are handled that gives the movie the extra weight it needs to be considered a serious drama. Kerri Russell, Alicia Witt, Erika Christensen, and Evan Rachel Wood each does a fantastic job of portraying their characters as well.

Joan Allen's performance shines above the rest, though, giving what should be considered as the first Oscar-worthy female performance of the year. She runs the gamut from being sad, to infuriatingly angry, to just downright edgy, showing a woman whose emotions have been kicked around so much that she is now just intolerable as a defense mechanism. It's a comedic performance that is so good that we feel sorry for her at every turn. Costner proves to be a good foil for her, giving a toned down performance as a man who doesn't want to intrude on the family's grieving process. It's not a very showy role for him, but it is better than what he has been doing lately, and he has one applause-worthy scene in which he kicks in a bathroom door.

If "Upside of Anger" falls in one area it is exposing too much strife for one movie. Binder makes it a bit too long, feeling he has to vilify one character and then introduce the death of another; it all starts to feel like a little too much. The enjoyment of his movie remains intact, however. This is a character drama with humor, intelligence, and depth. It proves that there is an upside to what has generally, so far, been a very slow moving movie year.
Craig's Grade: B
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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'The Upside of Anger' Articles
  • Scott's review B
    February 22, 2005    This is Oscar-worthy material {for Joan Allen}, but she will most likely be overlooked due to the film's inauspicious release date. -- Scott Sycamore
  • Lee's review B
    February 19, 2005    One of the things I admired is that the film doesn?t overdo its material; it is funny and doesn?t go over the top, and it is emotional without being sentimental. -- Lee Tistaert