The Upside of Anger

April 16, 2005 - This 2005 comedy/drama stars Joan Allen and Kevin Costner. Mike Binder, who wrote the script, also has a role. The character played by Evan Rachel Wood serves as the film's narrator. Alicia Witt and Keri Russell appear.

The movie opens at a funeral scene, but we don't find out who the funeral is for until the end of the movie. The funeral scene is brief and then we switch to "three years earlier."

At this point, Terry Wolfmeyer (Allen) is drunk and upset because her husband has disappeared. She tells her four daughters that their father has taken his wallet and run off with his Swedish secretary. It doesn't take long for Terry to become drinking buddies with neighbor Denny Davies (Costner), an ex-baseball player who now makes his living by doing a radio show and by capitalizing on his name.

Together, Terry and Denny drink their way into a romance. But, even though time has passed, Terry's still angry. She's mad when Denny gets one of the daughters a job at his radio station. She's mad when she catches that daughter in bed with Denny's producer (Binder), who's about twice her age. She's mad when another daughter (Russell) wants to go to dance school instead of to the University of Michigan. She's mad when her oldest daughter (Witt) springs a boyfriend and marriage plans on her at her college graduation. And, she's still mad at her husband. She's looked up the number of his former secretary in Sweden but can't bring herself to make the call.

Overall review: *** I liked this movie a lot. It had more funny moments than I expected and it kept you guessing to the end about who actually died. I thought Allen and Costner were both good. They made their characters likeable, which isn't easy when they're drunk most of the time.

I did have some problems, though, especially with the daughters. Witt played the oldest one and Wood played the youngest one (inexplicably named Popeye). But, the two middle daughters, I think, both looked too old to be playing people who were (as far as I could tell) either still in high school or who had recently graduated.

Another problem I had was money. With the husband gone and out of contact with the family, how were they making ends meet? One of the daughters got a job, but she wouldn't make enough to pay the mortgage on their nice big house and keep mom in alcohol. They did sell some land to some people Denny was working for, but that didn't happen until well after the father had gone.

But, I don't think it's fair to let those details get in the way of what is, overall, a good movie. The message here: It's OK to be angry. Just don't stay that way.