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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.43%
Worth A Look42.86%
Average: 19.64%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap: 3.57%

5 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Upside of Anger, The
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by Laura Kyle

"This movie makes me angry -- and so far, there's no upside."
2 stars

Mike Binder writes/directs/co-stars in The Upside of Anger, a film that tries really hard, for well over an hour, to be something that in the end, it admits it’s not. The Upside of Anger is a respectful effort with some pretty nice themes you can take home with you – but ultimately, it’s a movie that’s way too bent on pulling your leg.

I’m afraid that I was disappointed in an actress I least expected to let me down – Joan Allen. It’s not that she’s bad, by any means, but she sacrifices a more natural approach to her character, in the name of The Message that she must get across to moviegoers by the end credits. In other words, Allen knows it’s really important to play Terry Wolfmeyer, a mother of four girls who was abruptly left by her husband, angry. After all, she’s in a movie called The Upside of ANGER, so there better be some anger.

But Allen forgets to play Terry. Perhaps she’s serving the plot more than the character. Her performance here isn’t lazy or even unoriginal, it’s just lacking a certain kick to it –her depiction of Terry relies too much on an expressionless face. As for Kevin Costner, he fares much better, turning in one of his best performances in recent memory, as retired, heavy drinking baseball star Denny, who now earns a living signing baseballs and hosting a radio show.

When Terry is abandoned by her spouse, she immediately slaps on the “angry” face, the one she’ll keep on for the duration of the film. The manner in which she handles her husband’s absence is most curious, in that she completely skips the denial/grief process and so do her daughters.

Denny eagerly accompanies her in her newfound alcoholism, the two drinking together regularly. They define their relationship openly – they both simply want another body next to their side. Soon “feelings” start to enter the equation though.

Terry’s daughters look absolutely nothing like her or each other, but they’re played by some of the best and most beautiful actresses in town – Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, and standout Evan Rachel Wood. Realism is only a side-note in The Upside of Anger anyways – so big-time liberties taken in casting aren’t too frustrating.

Still, concerning the acting as whole, though talent’s in every frame, there’s some strange direction by Binder, which accounts for one too many unintentionally awkward moments.

If you think you’re getting a solid romance out of this thing, you’d be wrong. There are an absurd amount of unnecessary, frantic subplots running around in The Upside of Anger and it all weighs the film down. Many of these minor plot elements are interesting in their own right, but they’re never developed and they have no purpose but to distract a moviegoer from the lack of true originality in the picture.

Binder is good as the 40-something producer of Denny’s radio show, who courts one of Terry’s daughters, much to the dismay of Terry. But his character goes absolutely nowhere. Ditto for every one of Terry’s daughters, who endure all sorts of drama, but to no end.

Often, a writer throws in all kinds of seemingly irrelevant details just for the sake of characterization and to create a particular mood. But in the case of The Upside of Anger, Binder is merely showing off, because none of his contrived mini-plots help out his movie at all; they only serve in overloading the audience with too much information.

With mishap after uncomfortable situation after mishap after uncomfortable situation making up the entire plot, I don’t think The Upside of Anger is up a notch from the typical, uncreative comedy, obsessed with lowbrow humor, of today -- it's an unnatural melodrama at its core. It’s all about as organic as a bowl of Coco Puffs.

After it’s said and done, you’ll feel a) fooled, or b) relieved that what you thought was a pretty mediocre rip-off of Something’s Gotta Give and the like, is actually a whole other deal. But either way, The Upside of Anger is a terribly flawed, dishonest waste of a few good ideas and a tremendous cast.

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originally posted: 04/05/05 04:26:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/28/09 Brett Anderson Butler Sexy, smart, improper, timely and funny. Happy film watcher today. 5 stars
5/23/09 art an r-rated sit-com 3 stars
1/02/07 Ellen Moss MIKE BINDER'S BEST 5 stars
6/02/06 drydock54321 liked the ending even though it was sad 4 stars
11/26/05 Rand Malkin Mike Binder's pitch perfect comedy 5 stars
10/30/05 Joe Smaltz Chick Flick, but a damn good one. The media hypes such crappy stuff, & this one is hidden. 5 stars
8/17/05 ES A believable story, excellent acting and characters = A classic with all the right moves 5 stars
7/30/05 Phil M. Aficionado Literally, "worth a look" for the acting; but major problems with the story and choppiness 3 stars
7/30/05 Sass Leclair Awful! I absolutely hated this movie; that's rare for me to say. 1 stars
6/07/05 woofer My early vote for the best movie of 2005. 5 stars
5/27/05 Scott Smiley Too many holes, and too dull for words 2 stars
5/05/05 kaz Allen and Costner are fabulous..the girls are not.. 4 stars
4/23/05 jcjs fine 5 stars
4/12/05 lindy03 very good movie...I really enjoyed it. good performances by all 4 stars
4/09/05 Denise Costner is good 3 stars
4/09/05 Heather A mature, intelligent, adult, relationship driven movie 5 stars
4/07/05 Elizabeth S Nice performances, especially Costner. 3 stars
4/06/05 kim frank i loved it 5 stars
4/03/05 Suzz talented actors in a good script with a meaninful story 4 stars
4/03/05 andrea ackerman A perfect film by Mike Binder 5 stars
3/22/05 Bobbi Plot too contrived and goes nowhere; average acting 3 stars
3/21/05 Jeff Anderson A magnificent & emotionally charged powerhouse! Allen, Costner & the 4 girls are TERRIFIC!! 5 stars
2/26/05 Lori Costner is sexy and funny! 5 stars
2/01/05 Kris Joan Allen was fantastic as were the girls; enjoyable story 4 stars
2/01/05 drtednelson hilarious, if flawed, comedy. 4 stars
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  11-Mar-2005 (R)
  DVD: 26-Jul-2005



Directed by
  Mike Binder

Written by
  Mike Binder

  Joan Allen
  Kevin Costner
  Erika Christensen
  Evan Rachel Wood
  Keri Russell
  Alicia Witt

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