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The Upside of Anger (2005)

Sometimes what tears us apart helps us put it back together

Directed by:

Mike Binder

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 118 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: Germany, United Kingdom, United States

Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) is a woman in turmoil. Her four teenage daughters bubble under with varying degrees of resentment for her, she’s well along the road to outright alcoholism, and her hubby’s gone AWOL – presumably with his nubile young Swedish secretary in tow. Life’s a bitch and, to be blunt, so is she.

Life, though – as a wise man once said – can be terribly tame if you don’t play the game with two, and it’s not long before our embittered heroine finds someone who says he “wants to play the game with you”. It’s Denny Davies (Kevin Costner), a retired baseball star who now hosts his own radio talk show and also happens to live just along the road. A fellow boozer, it’s not long before they’re hitting the bottle together and – as you’ve probably already guessed -much more besides.

‘The Upside of Anger’ reminds me a lot of 2003’s ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, only this one has a more biting, cynical sense of humour and the writing – from Mike Binder, who also directs and plays a substantially-sized supporting role – is richer. It’s never what you might call laugh-out-loud funny, but for the most part it’s sharply put-together and I can’t fault any of the performers for their contributions (Costner must have been an instantly obvious choice to play the too-laid-back-for-words Denny, and there’s nice work from the likes of Evan Rachel Wood and Erika Christensen as two of Terry’s troubled teens).

On the downside (geddit?), it’s longer than it has any real need to be, particularly as Terry is such a tough lead character to put up with (her perpetual moaning leaves her dangerously close to becoming a subject of irritation rather than sympathy). I should also point out that the ending is absolutely ridiculous, and in this reviewer’s opinion goes at least some way to ruining everything that’s gone before it. Still, I can’t help but feel it will leave audiences divided – and that’s probably the upside.

It's Got: An out-of-place exploding head.

It Needs: Anger management.

Alternatives:

Something's Gotta Give, Tin Cup

Summary

A booze-fuelled comedy-drama with its ups and downs.

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