Film Reviews

THE UPSIDE OF ANGER (Victoria)

By • Apr 1st, 2005 •

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Released by NEW LINE
MPAA: Rated R / Running time: 116 minutes

QUOTE: Costner takes over a Jack Nicholson part and perfectly engages us. Not every middle-aged star needs Tarantino to have a career resurrected.

In last year’s SPANGLISH, writer-director James L. Brooks deified a Latina maid while making a monster out of her female employer. The rumored autobiographical script had a vicious shrew that some whispered was based on a woman the wealthy director was once married to. The character was so terrible Brooks and his star Tea Leoni were said to have fought over the bitter Deborah Clasky. She did not have even one redeeming moment. And her husband, played by Adam Sandler, was an accommodating enabler-saint. The reason SPANGLISH failed is simple: Brooks hated Deborah Clasky.

Writer/director Mike Binder does not hate his sour heroine Terry Wolfmeyer. He is fascinated by a woman whose life is suddenly smashed to pieces and none of her children care.

In THE UPSIDE OF ANGER, we never see the sweet, nurturing Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) that kept a long marriage together. Her husband of over 20 years has suddenly left her and her four daughters for his Swedish receptionist. Terry freaks out and starts drinking. Having four spoiled daughters in a big house in Michigan makes for a volcano of egos. Terry doesn’t have any friends and her daughters aren’t very sympathetic to their father dumping their mother. In fact, they seem to take it in stride.

None of the four daughters, Andy (Alicia Witt), Emily (Keri Russell), Hadley (Erika Christensen), and the youngest, Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood), had a good relationship with their father: He takes off without a word to any of them. They never got a hint he had a serious mistress. Since only Terry is certain of her husband’s infidelity, it leads us to think there were some problems in their marriage. Terry quickly announces that her husband has been faithful. Terry says he abandoned everything to move to Sweden.

Taking to the bottle for a long bout of depression and rage, Terry has to also deal with a neighbor who owns a vast property of soon-to-be developed land behind her house. He is Denny Davies, a washed-up, famous World Series ballplayer. He has a radio talk show but hates baseball. He is also a drunk. Denny and Terry start drinking together. These two did so much drinking, I had a sympathy Bloody Mary when I got home.

Writer/director Mike Binder gives himself the role of Costner’s producer Adam “Shep” Goodman, a scruffy creep who only dates 20 year-olds. In a role Paul Giamatti would have played pre-SIDEWAYS, Binder does what we always see writer/directors do when they want a film career. They write themselves a strong, small role. Usually, it is not a pleasant character but does make an impression on the audience and story.

Your favorite scenes from TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE are here once again.

While Allen easily holds the focal point and is the driving force of THE UPSIDE OF ANGER, Costner’s delightful ease with his character and happily gone-to-seed physique will now give him a new lease on a career once thought to be stalled in Purgatory. His performance is so wonderful you will think you have discovered a treasure. Costner gives Denny just the right emotional weight: He is so lonely he enjoys the chaos of Terry’s family. The girls might hate their mother, and they are all emotional divas, but it is better than sitting alone signing baseballs. He makes you understand why Denny hangs around. And when Terry pushes just too far, Binder gives Denny a terrific scene we were all waiting for. This is one of the scenes sorely missing from SPANGLISH.

“I can’t believe that when people with a lot of money die, nothing happens.” Vincent Gallo


Cast:
Joan Allen (Terry Wolfmeyer); Kevin Costner (Denny Davies); Erika Christensen (Andy Wolfmeyer); Evan Rachel Wood (Lavender “Popeye” Wolfmeyer); Keri Russell (Emily Wolfmeyer); Alicia Witt (Hadley Wolfmeyer); Mike Binder (Adam “Shep” Goodman); Tom Harper (David Junior); Dane Christensen (Gorden Reiner); Danny Webb (Grey Wolfmeyer); Magdalena Manville (Darlene); Suzanne Bertish (Gina); David Firth (David Senior); Rod Woodruff (Dean Reiner); Stephen Greif Emily’s Doctor; Arthur Penhallow (DJ Arthur P); Richard Mylan (Disc Jockey); Robert Perkins (Town Car Man); William Tapley (Dr. Lewis); Owen Oakeshott (Builder Foreman); Bella Sabbagh (Radio Station Receptionist)

Credits:
Written/Directed by Mike Binder.
Producers: Alex Gartner, Jack Binder Sammy Lee
Executive producers: Mark Damon, Stewart Hall, Andreas Grosch, Andreas Schmid
Director of Photography: Richard Greatrex, BSC
Editors: Steve Edwards, Robin Sales
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Production Designer: Chris Roope
Costume Designer: Deborah Scott

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