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The Upside of Anger

In a romantic dramedy written and directed by Mike Binder (he wrote the title role specifically for Joan Allen), a woman is suddenly abandoned by her husband and is left alone to care for four wildly different teenage daughters. Reeling from the sudden end to her marriage and her husband's disappearance, Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) does not handle the unexpected situation well. She begins to drink more heavily, becomes prone to sudden outbursts at the slightest provocation, and spews her bitter feelings toward her husband every chance she gets. Her daughters cope with the new family dynamic in different ways, but they each began to lose respect for their mother with her extreme moods and inability to cope.

When a neighbor shows an interest in the disentigrating family, he isn't warmly welcomed initially, but his persistence soon earns him a familiar place in the household. He does what he can to help the girls and eventually his attention shifts to their dysfunctional mother and how he can help to heal her wounded heart. Although he is at times clumsy and grasps for the right words, he is sincere in his concern for the torn family. In turn, they eventually begin to fill the void left in his life after retiring from a baseball career.

Critics were ready to rip this movie to shreds when it was announced that Kevin Costner would play (surprise!) a retired baseball player. Director Mike Binder anticipated that criticism and cleverly wrote the chracter of Denny Davies as a combination of other baseball players Costner has played. As an alcoholic, often inattentive mother, Joan Allen was given the difficult task of making her character a sympathetic one. Of course, Kevin Costner had a string of movie bombs to overcome to garner appreciation for his new role. Both actors succeeded in their challenges. Joan Allen was heart-wrenchingly funny with her overreactions and neurotic behavior. Kevin Costner was great in one of the best roles of his career, as a has-been who feels like a loser and has little to motivate him.

Upside of Anger boasts a really strong cast, including the Wolfmeyer daughters: the lovely Keri Russell (Felicity) as Emily Wolfmeyer, Alicia Witt (Two Weeks Notice) as Hadley Wolfmeyer, Erika Christensen (Swimfan) as Andy Wolfmeyer, and Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen) as Lavender Wolfmeyer. The story moves right along with emotional scenes and a few laughs, leading up to a fairly unexpected ending.

This film could have gone many different directions, but it stuck to the realistic, with a woman who is too focused on her own pain to deal with the anguish her children suffer. Also, a tired, used man who drags through life with nothing to make him feel worthwhile learns that helping others can shift the attention from his own emptiness. The director allows several awkward moments between the characters, leaving the audience wondering who will say what to whom - much like reality when people are getting to know one another in a quickly intimate situation. Ultimately, the film ends quite surprisingly - it certainly isn't predictable and may even upset you. That's actually one of the great things about the film, though, it's true to life.

Extra Extra! Tidbits About the Movie...
*In Reality - Divorcing his high school sweetheart after being married for more than fifteen years, Kevin Costner recently remarried. He is newly wed (September 2004) to Christine Baumgartner.

*Tidbit - The director, Mike Binder, began as a stand-up comic. He's even performed in the same venue as Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, and Jim Carrey.

*Tidbit - Erika Christensen's "little" brother Dane, has a small role in this film - he plays Gordon.

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