Upside of Anger,
New Line Home Entertainment
Date: July 26, 2005
Review posted: July 27, 2005
Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) gets angry and aggressive after her
husband leaves but the lives of her four daughters (Keri Russell,
Erika Christensen, Alicia Witt, and Evan Rachel Wood) and a new
romance with neighbor and ex-ballplayer Denny (Kevin Costner)
slowly provide the salve.
The term dramedy to describe films has always felt a little dubious
to me. Most films have some funny bit or moments, so should the two
opposing genres be combined in a descriptor? However, especially
lately, films have appeared that can truly only be described in that
way. Moreover, they often provide memorable viewing experiences. This
film is one of them. The Upside of Anger is a well-written,
smoothly directed, and affecting film with excellent performances from
the leads and support.
Mike Binder (HBO’s The Mind of the Married Man) wrote and
takes a supporting role here aside from directing. As the extras point
out more than once, while acting together in The Contender,
Allen suggested Binder write her a comedy and Terry Wolfmeyer is a
perfect fit for Allen. Binder manages to craft a character who is
funny (especially when drunk) but also unlikeable (especially when
angry). The journey of Terry to someone likeable again is the focus of
the film and the subplots, including the wedding of one daughter and
the illness of another, gird that up well. The romance with Denny is
the central component of that, though, and despite the copious
drinking, the audience can tell that something real is going on
In Costner's hands, Denny is always a good guy and suggests more
layers than one film can show. As good as Allen is, Costner must carry
the likeability through most of the film until Terry as a character
does grow out of her anger. A lot of Costner and Allen's scenes
together make you smile, like when he catches her as she gets out of
the shower and the scene where he kicks a door down to tell her enough
Binder as a director is as solid as he is as a writer. Terry has
three daydream sequences in the film. The first is a little
incongruously violent but the other two go a long way to demonstrating
the character's healing. Fade out transitions and good staging
compliment Binder's elegant camera work. Depth of field and good
compositions make the cinematography stand out as well. You would also
never know that
is standing in for suburban
The sets and real locations give good settings and the costuming is
excellent. The music can be a little melodramatic at moments.
Binder also isn't a bad actor, as he makes Denny's producer Shep
quite funny. The four daughters are all solid actresses, the best
being Russell, who gets the most emotional scenes and gets to show off
her dancing ability. (If you like these scenes, check out Russell in
Mad About Mambo.) Finally, one of the most memorable things
about this film is the end, which is refreshingly unpredictable and
effective much like the film itself.
Binder's nice and polished visuals are finely transferred to the
small screen in this anamorphic widescreen presentation. The picture
looks very good with smooth detail and sharp, bright colors.
Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound and stereo surround are both offered here,
compensating or the fact that the soundtrack volume overall is a
little low. There are no other language tracks but English and Spanish
subtitles are available.
the Scenes Featurette: This approximately half-hour featurette is one of the best of its
kind I have seen in a long while. Very little clips are used, allowing
more time for interviews from cast and crew covering interesting
discussion of the usual things like locations, the director, and the
film's premiere at Sundance. Best of all, though, is the inclusion of
a film critic's discussion of the film, shedding light on Binder's
previous work and other things like performances. This is definitely a
featurette to watch.
Binder and Allen join for a very good track, moderated by filmmaker
Rod Lurie, who directed them both in The Contender and is a
former film critic. Lurie is actually a good addition because he
continuously points out things viewers might not notice, such as the
fact that in the scenes opening films, the family doesn't touch each
other. They cover the usual things and even though they overlap each
other sometimes and Allen frequently just agrees with whatever has
been said, Lurie goes for the deeper stuff.
Eight scenes are offered here, with optional commentary from Binder.
These are good overall, fitting in with the tone of the finished film
for the most part. Only the final dream sequence feels incongruous.
Binder also provides some typical but interesting reasons why these
scenes got cut.
Finally, there is also the theatrical trailer.
The Upside of Anger
boasts good writing and directing as well as superior performances
from Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, and the supporting cast. This is a
film of genuine emotion that many will find effective. The DVD
presentation is heightened by good bonus features. For a rental or a
buy, The Upside of Anger is not a bad choice at all.
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