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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 Lybarger

"Joan Allen can become a bitter drunk around me any time."
4 stars

Joan Allen is such an accomplished actress that she can play an abrasively rude alcoholic for nearly two hours and still have viewers rooting for her character by the final reel. As a result, “The Upside of Anger” winds up being a charmingly genial film about less than likable people.

Of course, the characters don’t start off as rude lushes. Terry Wolfmeyer goes into a major tailspin when her husband abruptly leaves their home without giving any notice.

Saying that she doesn’t take it well is like saying that the Exxon Valdez left a small trickle.

Terry instantly plops herself in front of the television and downs the booze as if she’s been paid to empty a distillery. Her four college and high school age daughters Hadley, Emily, Andy and Popeye (Alicia Witt, Keri Russell, Erika Cristensen and Evan Rachel Wood) pretty much fend for themselves as Terry mopes and screams her way though life.

Things don’t get much better but certainly become more colorful when former baseball great Denny Davis (Kevin Costner) staggers into her life. Now that he’s no longer swatting pitches, Denny hosts a lowly call-in radio show that might do better if he devoted more of the discussion toward the sport that gives him his sole claim to legitimacy.

Curiously, by helping Terry empty her bottles, Denny inadvertently comes close to redeeming them both. He helps Andy land a job at his radio station, even if it means she starts dating his lecherous producer Shep (writer-director Mike Binder, in a delightfully sleazy turn).

Terry, in turn, cleans up his place and starts a bizarre affair with him. In the process, she slowly gets him to do more with his life than simply rest on his laurels.

Mike Binder’s script and direction manage to make all of this believable and compelling. Having once helmed the nearly unwatchable superhero comedy “Blankman,” it’s a pleasure to discover that he can pen some snappy dialogue and create dynamic and interesting characters.

Great casting doesn’t hurt.

Allen manages to sneak some affection into Terry’s ferocious bile. In her blunt manner, she tries to keep her offspring from making decisions that will harm them later. Allen also manages to imbue Terry with a sharp wit that makes it a pleasure to watch her dress down anyone who tries to make a chump of her.

Costner matches Allen’s prowess and demonstrates remarkable courage. Sure, we’ve seen him play over-the-hill athletes before (“Bull Durham,” “Tin Cup”), but in those film Costner always had an upper hand and knew the score better than his less experienced rivals.

Here, he whole heartedly embrace’s Denny’s buffoonery and sense of resignation. He’s never played a doofus before, but Costner demonstrates that he’s got a lot more range that his detractors give him credit for having.

Binder knows he’s got a lot of material to play with, and “The Upside of Anger” sometimes suffers because it tries to do a little too much. With the exception of Keri Russell’s overachieving Emily, Wolfmeyer daughters are a bit sketchy. Keeping up with all four them is tricky, and some of their traits seem redundant. The film might have been stronger if there had been only one or two offspring.

Nonetheless, Binder pulls off a major hat trick by sticking in a moral without preaching at his audience. By treating his deeply flawed characters with equally deep warmth, he manages to tell viewers not to let bitterness consume them without coming off like a hypocrite.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 04/03/05 20:40:24
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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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