"Flawed Family Portrait"
What You Need To Know:
THE UPSIDE OF ANGER is a poignant, sometimes funny and usually believable portrait of a family dealing with their mother’s debauchery. The title refers to the theme and ultimate conclusion reached by the narrator Popeye, “The only upside to anger is the person you become.” What this means is unclear, but the movie is a skillfully developed story about unresolved anger and its corrosive side effects. However, there is a lot of foul language and most of the characters engage in fornication, with one of the daughters forced to marry as a result.
(PaPaPa, B, C, Ho, LLL, V, SS, AAA, DD, LLL, MM) Very strong godless, pagan worldview with themes of alcoholism, anger and sexual immorality, with some light, poignant moral and redemptive elements about anger and forgiveness which tries to show how unresolved anger and unforgiving attitudes can eat at a person and thus an entire family’s soul, and minor homosexual character; 48 obscenities and 18 profanities; light violence such as woman slaps man sleeping with her young daughter and woman imagines man’s head exploding in another scene; strong sexual content with strongly implied premarital sex, themes of adultery, and woman’s youngest daughter tries to seduce a young classmate who insists he’s homosexual; no nudity, but woman coming out of shower in a towel; alcohol use and alcoholism; marijuana smoking; and, strong miscellaneous immorality, especially intense anger, bitterness and sadness leading to alcoholism.
THE UPSIDE OF ANGER stars Joan Allen as Terry Wolfmeyer, a middle-aged suburban wife and mother who becomes royally peeved when her husband mysteriously disappears, apparently taking off with his young Swedish secretary, leaving her to raise their four daughters alone. “Anger has turned my mother into a sad and bitter woman,” explains Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood), her youngest daughter, as the story begins.
Indeed, Terry dives into her alcoholism with vigor. When a persistent neighbor named Denny (played by Kevin Costner), a scruffy, once-great baseball star-turned-radio-deejay, offers to become her drinking buddy, a quirky and immoral relationship develops. Terry, however, is so fiercely angry and bitter that the ensuing romance between them is the one aspect of the story that is hard to believe.
Despite the sexual immorality, alcoholism and foul language, THE UPSIDE OF ANGER is a richly poignant, sometimes very funny and usually believable portrait of a family dealing with tragedy without a faith in God or a worldview that brings meaning to their suffering.
Costner as Denny finds a home with the “very female” company of Terry’s confrontational daughters, each with her own way of dealing with their mother’s debauchery. The title refers to the theme and ultimate conclusion reached by the narrator Popeye, “The only upside to anger is the person you become.” This reviewer is not sure what that means, but the movie explores how unresolved anger and unforgiveness can eat at a person and thus an entire family’s soul. Written and directed by actor/director Mike Binder of HBO’s THE MIND OF A MARRIED MAN, himself a child of divorce, THE UPSIDE OF ANGER is a skillfully developed story about unresolved anger and its many corrosive side effects.
Joan Allen as Terry, sadly, becomes a bitter drunk who, out of loneliness and desperation, sleeps with a neighbor. Her oldest daughter, Hadley (Alicia Witt), blames Terry for the father’s abandonment and eventually becomes pregnant out of wedlock. The next eldest daughter, Emily (Keri Russell), holds it all in and becomes ill. The third daughter, Andy (Erika Christensen), foregoes college, gets a job at the local radio station and sleeps with the much older radio producer. Finally, the youngest daughter, Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood), tries to seduce a young classmate who insists he’s gay. In the end, an unforeseen twist shows that Terry’s anger was misplaced and inappropriate, and years of suffering were for naught.
The acting in THE UPSIDE OF ANGER is Oscar worthy. Joan Allen delivers a complex, resoundingly truthful and ultimately indelible performance. Amiable and relaxed, Kevin Costner gives one of his most nuanced and subtle performances to date. And, the quartet of young actresses are each superb in their respective roles. Mike Binder, the writer/director of this film also turns in a solid performance as Shep, the producer of Denny’s radio program. Luckily for these thespians, the exquisite score by Alexandre Desplat highlights rather than detracts from their efforts.