Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
|Featuring:||Kevin Costner, Joan Allen, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, Evan Rachel Wood, Mike Binder, Tom Harper, Dane Christensen, more »|
|Producer:||Media 8 Entertainment, Greentrees Films, VIP 3 Medienfonds, more »|
|Distributor:||New Line Features|
Sometimes what tears us apart helps us put it back together
Terry Wolfmeyer’s husband has run off with his secretary to Sweden, and left Terry to handle the day-to-day stresses of raising four high school and college-aged daughters in Mike Binder’s film “The Upside of Anger”. Terry doesn’t take the abandonment gracefully. Instead of maintaining a solid front for her daughters, she drowns herself in her sorrows, not to mention a whole lot of alcohol.
Her neighbor, Denny Davies, is a retired Detroit Tigers baseball star who wanders over to her house one afternoon with a beer in hand, to talk to her husband about possible land development behind the Wolfmeyer’s home. She tells him that her husband has run off, and the two become drinking partners; pathetic souls who find solace in each other, and in the bottle.
Denny has always had a thing for Terry, but never made much of it, because she was married. However, he uses her husband’s absence as a springboard into the possible relationship he has always wanted. He invites himself over for dinner, which is always prepared by Terry’s four levelheaded daughters Hadley, Emily, Andy, and Lavender (Popeye).
Each of the daughters is experiencing their own problems, but they handle them far better than their mother. They avoid bringing them up around her to give their mother time to bathe in self-pity. The daughters seem to be very close-knit, but each begins wilting under the oppression they receive from their mother. Perhaps having her husband run off has given Terry free reign to say anything and everything that pops into her head, without regard to tact. She loves her daughters, but at times lashes out at them with viscous verbal assaults and belittles the things they like doing the best. She does not appear to give a second thought about how she might be hurting their feelings.
However, the relationship with Denny softens her, to an extent, and makes her more bearable to her daughters as they tackle some very serious problems that come their way.
Sounds like a fun movie, huh? Believe it or not, Mike Binder has fashioned all this dramatic material into a very, very funny film. The two main characters may not be great people, but Binder has made them likeable, because authenticity permeates through them. These are real people, albeit non-Christians, experiencing life’s woes the way real people might go about doing it, with a little humor thrown in. Every minute of the film rings true, and that is thanks to the performances, which are uniformly outstanding.
Joan Allen and Kevin Costner are Terry and Denny respectively, and each turns in remarkably genuine performances. Allen’s best scenes are ones where she doesn’t even speak, she wears her emotions all over her being—her face, eyes, neck, body posture all tell us exactly how she is feeling, and Allen seems to do it effortlessly. Costner is great in a more understated role, and his best scene comes when he has finally had enough of Terry’s moaning about life and gives her a piece of his mind. Alicia Witt, Keri Russell, Erika Christensen, and Evan Rachel Wood are all perfect as the daughters who keep their mother in line, and rally around each other when the going gets tough.
However, as is typical with just about any secular movie these days, there is plenty of content in this film that will keep many Christians from wanting to view it. The drunkenness of the main characters, while not condoned, is taken lightly, and played for laughs. Ephesians 5:18 tells us not to be drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but these people apparently skipped over that verse in Sunday school. Some of the characters are engaged in sex outside of marriage, and while no sex scenes are shown, they are also seen without moral judgment from either side. Exodus 20:14 makes it pretty clear how God feels about adultery, and once again, these characters pay no mind to it. One of the characters gets pregnant out of wedlock. One of the girl’s friends admits his homosexuality (which leads to her trying to convince him to have sex with her, to prove he isn’t really gay). And one of the characters is a leech of a middle aged man, who makes it a habit of getting close to the younger ladies.
Language is strong, with a number of f-words, uses of God’s name in vain, and various others that will offend most Christians. All in all, this is a morally dead film. Make no mistake, these characters are not Christians, so I guess it should come as no surprise that they don’t live or talk like Christians. Christian adults considering whether to view this movie should therefore be forewarned, and should judge accordingly. “The Upside of Anger” is certainly not a film for children (few will want to see it anyway).
“The Upside of Anger” contrasts with many shallow productions that take little effort to create. I appreciated the overwhelming reality of this film. A few of the scenes may not ring true, but for the most part, they do. It is a very funny film that benefits enormously from interesting characters, strong dialogue, and Oscar caliber acting. And the ending of the film… well, let’s just say it blew me away.
I spent half the movie trying to figure out where “The Upside of Anger” was taking me, and when I got to the conclusion, I found I had not been close to guessing. Some may argue that the ending is implausible, but to this reviewer, it could not have been more perfect. Aside from the film’s objectionable elements (which earned it an R-rating), I think it is one of the year’s most interesting films, so far.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/nudity: Heavy
Year of Release—2005 / USA Opening: March 11, 2005 (NYC/LA)
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