The 2005 film, “The Upside of Anger,” is written and directed by Mike Binder, and stars Kevin Costner and Joan Allen. It also stars Alicia Witt, Keri Russell, Erika Christensen, and Evan Rachel Wood as Allen’s four daughters, as well as Binder, who plays Costner’s radio producer and eventual lover of Allen’s daughter, Andy, played by Christensen.
Critic Roger Moore writes for Knight-Ridder Tribune News Service, that this movie is along the genre of “Terms of Endearment,” in that you have a strong willed woman who allows her anger and at times, alcohol, to cloud her perception concerning her intimate relationships (Moore pp). Thus, the movie title, “The Upside of Anger,” is an appropriate title for this flick since the entire movie is centralized on Allen’s character, Terry Wolfmeyer, and how she copes with what fate has dumped in her lap.
The movie begins at a funeral on a rainy day, as the youngest daughter, Popeye, played by Wood, narrates that her mother used to be regarded as the kindest and sweetest person in the world, but now she’s just a “very sad and bitter woman,” and that her persona makes Popeye “just want to slap her” (Upside pp). The movie then flashes back three years and shows Allen dressed in her gown and robe, drink in hand, watching the Afghanistan invasion on television (Upside pp). This scene sets the tone of Allen’s character, as it confirms Popeye’s narrative, for just the look on Terry’s face and her entire demeanor screams that this is not only an unhappy woman, but an angry woman (Upside pp). Terry’s fixation of the television is disturbed when Denny Davies, played by Costner, knocks on the back door, beer in hand (Upside pp). She confesses that her husband has deserted her and the girls for his Swedish secretary, hence her anger (Upside pp).
Costner is an ex-baseball player who now drinks, stays stoned, and has a radio talk show on a Detroit station. Denny and Terry become drinking buddies, and, as Owen Gleiberman writes in Entertainment Weekly, “dissolute soul mates,” leading Denny to spend more and more of his time at her house (Gleiberman pp). What brought these two characters together was a mutual desire to escape, Denny, his once famed career, and Terry, the apparent fantasy of her marriage (Upside pp).
Binder does an excellent job of developing each of the characters, especially Allen and Costner. Denny is forced to accept the fact that he loves being a part of Terry’s family, regardless of the fighting and tension, and Terry is forced to accept that it was not her marriage that was the fantasy, but the circumstances of her husband’s disappearance. Binder shows the growth and maturity of the girls during this three-year interval, how each one takes a stand against their mother at one time or another. Binder also shows how Terry misdirects the anger for her husband towards her daughters, sometimes unconsciously, and at other times, fully aware that she is hurting them.
Binder set the movie in a woodsy upper class neighborhood in suburban Detroit, and provides a chronology of time but showing the seasons pass, year after year. The movie is cast superbly, especially Costner’s role, and excellently portrays the cloud of dysfunction that can appear over any happy home. The world is not always what it seems, but then again, it is.
Gleiberman, Owen. “The Upside Of Anger: As a romantic ex-jock, Costner revels in aging gracefully.” Entertainment Weekly. March 18, 2005. Retrieved September 25, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.
Moore, Roger. “The Upside of Anger.” The Orlando Sentinel via Knight-
Ridder/Tribune News Service. March 15, 2005. Retrieved September 25, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.
The Upside of Anger. Director: Mike Binder. New Line Home Entertainment.