Friday, May 13, 2005

Movie Review: The Upside of Anger

United States, 2005
U.S. Release Date: 3/11/05 (limited); 3/18/05 (wide)
Running Time: 1:58
Rated: R (Profanity, sexual situations, drug use)
Cast: Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Erika Christensen, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, Mike Binder

Director: Mike Binder
Producers: Jack Binder, Alex Gartner, Sammy Lee
Screenplay: Mike Binder
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Studio: New Line Cinema

Posted by Hello
Unlike a blazing fire, anger needs air to subside. While oxygen allows a fire to grow in fury, it allows anger to breathe.

In its most commanding stages, anger – whether justified or unjustified – has the power to transform the calm into someone they are not. The Upside of Anger deals with this transformation in a dramatic and personal setting. Throughout the film anger, fear, solace, aggression, and angst surface, and while their effects can be striking, sincerity eventually triumphs over severity. Despite its near detrimental twist, The Upside of Anger is a heartrending and honest look at the gravity and austerity of emotions; its direction is praiseworthy and all six of its lead character portrayals are unpretentious and admirable.

During the film’s opening, a funeral is taking place. Who this funeral is for is not determined until the final 10 minutes of the picture. In the meantime, rewind to three years earlier. Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) is wallowing in her own sadness and drowning herself in alcohol; her husband left her for another woman—making her the lone provider of their four dissonant daughters. The oldest, Hadley (Alicia Witt), is at her wit’s end with her mother and cannot wait to get out of the house and start her own life. Andy (Erika Christensen) chooses not to attend college and instead immediately enters the workforce and initiates a relationship with her squirrelly boss (Mike Binder). Emily (Keri Russell) wants to attend an Arts college to study dance, and her unhappy home life has stricken her with illness. And finally, the youngest, Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood), is yearning for a boyfriend and begins to experiment with drugs.

Entering into this broken home and zoo of frustration is fellow drinker Denny Davies (Kevin Costner), an ex-baseball player and a current radio talk show host. Denny attempts to stabilize the household and bring a sense of calmness and contentment into the lives of Terry and her daughters.

The best aspect of The Upside of Anger is Joan Allen. This is her film; here, Allen dishes out her career-best. With a March release date, it is unlikely that Allen will earn an Oscar nod, but so far, she is beyond deserving. In a part that was specifically written for her, she slabs on the emotion and pulls off playing a woman who is discouraging yet likeable.

Writer/Director Mike Binder not only penned an intelligent script, but he also created six well-developed characters, brought out the best in all of his actors, and did some fine acting himself as radio producer and womanizer Shep Goodman. But, Binder's best touch to the film is one explosively funny scene where his character is slurping soup.

The only misstep that Binder makes is with his revelation conclusion. As expected, it’s the most unexpected character to inhabit the casket come the closing. While his guessing game as to who is going to die piques interest, it also dampens the effectiveness of the film’s emotions.

However, even though one of the plot elements takes a turn for the worse, the upsides of Anger still outweigh the downsides. In synergy, The Upside of Anger is refreshing and original, and it serves as a fine keystone between the early ’05 sludge and the pre-summer party. (*** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2005