out of Five
Running time: 110
Engaging, brilliantly directed, frequently funny and ultimately moving drama with a terrific script and superb performances from Allen and Costner.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Mike Binder (Reign Over Me), The Upside of Anger stars Joan Allen as Terry, the mother of four unfeasibly gorgeous daughters (Alicia Witt, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell and Evan Rachel Wood), who hits the bottle in anger and frustration after her husband mysteriously disappears. Terry's life is complicated enough with her daughters and their relationships, but then her boozy neighbour, ex-baseball star Denny Davies (Kevin Costner), starts putting the moves on her.
Joan Allen is always excellent, but she's on particularly fine form here, bristling with anger throughout and masking her considerable pain with bitter sarcasm and hurtful comments. Costner is equally terrific, displaying an unexpected gift for comic timing and delivering his best performance since Tin Cup. His stoned scenes, where he giggles at highly inappropriate moments, are extremely funny.
In addition, the romance between Denny and Terry is believable and genuinely heart-warming, thanks to some palpable chemistry between the two stars.
The supporting cast are good too, though you do feel a little bit sorry for Erika Christensen, whose character ends up in a romance with Binder himself, who's hilarious as Denny's sleazy radio producer, but certainly no oil painting. The relationship must surely be the worst example of abuse of writer/director privilege since Woody Allen snogged Julia Roberts in Everybody Says I Love You.
The film recalls The Squid and the Whale in its ability to simultaneously induce both laughter and tears. Binder's script crackles with wonderful dialogue and there are several hilarious gags, including an unexpected fantasy sequence that gets the film's biggest laugh.
This is a thoroughly delightful film with a superb script and terrific performances. Despite its limited release, it is well worth seeking out as it's one of the best films of the year.