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"The Upside of Anger"

Directed by Mike Binder.
Written by Mike Binder.
Starring Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Evan Rachel Wood and Mike Binder.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  4/4/2005


I was talking to my friend Julie.  "You're going to see 'The Upside of Anger'?  That's interesting...I didn't think a flick about a mom and her four daughters would be, well, your kind of movie."

I was talking to my buddy Ross.  "Here's what I know about 'The Upside of Anger'--I was leaving 'The Ring Two' [itself no winner] and I was standing in the lobby afterwards; these three girls were talking about how bad the movie was that they had just seen, and they couldn't stop talking about how bad it was.  Then one of the girls said 'Wow!  "The Upside of Anger" was awful!!!"

I was buying my ticket, to see "The Upside of Anger."  The box office guy--no lie--responded to my ticket request with "Are you sure, buddy?"  After I said yes, he said again "Are you sure?  I just want to make sure that you are buying a ticket for the right movie."

All the signs were there--I should have skipped "The Upside of Anger" altogether...but, I gotta tell you, I was having a good time with this thing!  The story concerns Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) and her four daughters as they cope with the fact that Mr. Wolfmeyer has run off with his Swedish secretary and left the family to fend for themselves in suburban Detroit.  The Wolfmeyer's neighbor and resident former jock, Denny Davies (Kevin Costner), is stunned by the loss of Terry's husband and shows it by...hitting on Terry until the twosome find a bond in bed, as well as sharing in their separate loneliness.  Of course, the meat of the story deals not only with Terry and Denny but the four Wolfmeyer daughters.  There's Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood, from "Thirteen"), the teenager with an eye for a loner in her school; Hadley (Alicia Witt), the eldest daughter who graduates from college with the goal of raising her own family; Andy (Erika Christensen), the hellion-in-training that wants to skip college and become a reporter; and Emily ("Felicity" star Keri Russell), the ballet dancer that just wants a little family love.

Giving us just enough balance between all four of the kids and the Terry/Denny relationship, director Mike Binder's script has a pretty good mix of comedic elements to balance a depressing home situation filled with enough drama to build a season of any show on the WB.  You've got Emily's eating problems, you've got Terry's drinking problems, you've got Andy's boss Shep (played by Binder) that seems to enjoy the company of women half his age, you've got mid-life name it.  The performances by the daughters felt fake at times to me; Christensen (as hot as she is) just doesn't cut it sometimes, and sometimes I couldn't explain some of the Emily reactions, at their worst when Terry tells Emily that this ballet thing just won't cut it.  I enjoyed the work of Wood, who was dialed up 20 notches in "Thirteen" but gives nice subtlety to her part this go-round.  Costner doesn't do drunk all that well, but I liked his part; Allen is always entertaining, this time as the mother-from-hell that looks like Kate Hudson-in-her-fifties haggard.

And, there were some great laughs; Binder gives himself the best scenes (a dream sequence just after Shep has enjoyed the company of Andy is the film's highlight), but laughs are spread around as Costner hams it up through much of his work in "The Upside of Anger."  The film's score was poor...but, it's a classy-looking production otherwise.  The minor twist at the end makes for an intriguing final sequence without looking like a script cop-out.

No, I don't want to see it again, and no one in this flick is in line to win any awards this year.  But, as a solid drama profiling a family on the emotional edge, I thought that "The Upside of Anger" worked just fine.  Which is good, because for a while there all the signs told me that blowing $6 on this thing would have been a very bad investment.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09