The Upside Of Anger

The Upside Of Anger

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Joan Allen is Hollywood's secret weapon, perfectly balanced and deadly accurate. A theatre trained actor, she specialises in character roles, which means she seldom repeats herself and never gives a bad performance. Why is she not up there in the firmament with Meryl, Julia and Nicole?

The Upside Of Anger has Chekovian possibilities, with all those daughters and a boozy ex-baseball star dropping in for a Bloody Mary, or whatever it takes to lubricate the fun gun. It doesn't reach those dizzy pinnacles, however, because, at the end of the rainbow, this is nothing less than a rom-com, without little kids (phew), but with a golden labrador (one scene in the kitchen and then walkies - good boy!).

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When Terry's other half does a runner with his Swedish secretary (allegedly), she loses it BIG TIME. Her four late teens/early twenties girls are suitably cynical and play mom like a battered, much loved violin. They have their own hang-ups, relationship glitches and occasional dreams. She rants and raves and lays down the law, which upsets them, but they have each other and, anyway, they know it's only because she's mad at dad, not them - not really.

Enter bearing gifts (alcohol), the charm jock, otherwise known as Denny (Kevin Costner), an old drinking buddy of the ratfink runaway. Once a ball player of national renown, his workout these days is talking to folks on his radio show and playing a few discs. He's a guy's guy, a barroom boyo, so carelessly confidant he assumes every woman is going to slip out of something loose at the merest suggestion of a shower share, not that he's bothered, preferring a full glass and a good laugh to bonkathon moonshine, with its addictive properties and emotional dependency.

The film might have been sharper, wittier and darker. The girls are interesting and require more screen time. The will-they-won't-they continuance between Terry and Denny is like a game of ping-pong. Sooner or later one of them will hit the net. Meanwhile, the rally goes on and the drinks keep coming and people say things they shouldn't and it's hurtful, or can be, and everyone lives in fabulous houses, as if money grows on trees.

Costner is weathering well, easing nicely into middle age without letting it get to him, generously standing aside to allow Allen to steal the picture. Without her, this would have been a Monday-afternoon-maybe movie. With her, it's a Saturday-matinee-must-see, with no great expectations, other than the guarantee that acting of this calibre can change the world, if only for a moment.

Reviewed on: 19 Nov 2006
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Deflecting the fury of a woman scorned with frequent showers, Bloody Marys and a little light humour.
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The Exile **1/2

Director: Mike Binder

Writer: Mike Binder

Starring: Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, Evan Rachel Wood, Mike Binder, Tom Harper, Dane Christensen, Danny Webb, Magdalena Manville

Year: 2005

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Germany/UK

Festivals:

Sundance 2005

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