The Upside Of Anger

Kevin Costner must feel like Garrett Morris’ Saturday Night Live character Chico Escuela: Baseball has been very, very good to me.

Good? Let’s talk great. Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, For Love of the Game, and now The Upside of Anger, in which the guy with the All-American good looks and home run smile plays a former baseball star now trying to score off the field.

When we first meet Denny Davies, he’s restless and struggling with retirement, hosting a radio show in which he refuses to discuss baseball, making ends meet autographing boxes of bats and balls tucked away in his modest home. Denny likes to drink, and finds the perfect drinking partner in Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen), the wife of a friend who supposedly ran off with his secretary. Denny is looking for romance, but settles for reluctant friendship.

Written and directed by Mike Binder, The Upside of Anger could have and should have been a chick flick, yet Binder and his engaging cast make this dramatic comedy a winner. Costner excels as the good natured man surrounded by a bevy of beauties, each one with a different problem and back story. Watching Costner charm his way into this sorority of four daughters and their skeptical house mother is enjoyable no matter what chromosome you wear on your sleeve.

The Upside of Anger succeeds thanks to sharp writing, direction, and honest, human performances. Even as Binder takes off on flights of fancy (a family dinner that ends with a bang comes to mind) his characters are always grounded. This solid package allows the writer-director and his cast to take chances and explore alternate avenues, taking us past familiar surroundings and into new territory. The dialogue is relevant, sweet, and funny.

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Denny and Terry, two lost souls who could make magic if they would give an inch. Allen gives Terry backbone and spirit, and just enough hopefulness to make her desperation attractive. Her daughters, played by Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, and Erika Christensen, are perfect reflections of her best and worst assets. That none of them come off as glorified wallpaper is a testament to the talent and presence of each actress.

There’s a bit of mystery in the romance (the film begins with a funeral), but the emphasis is on the characters are how they affect not just each other but us as well. I was affected.

Toasting Modern RomanceUpside of Anger Throws a Slow CurveTHE UPSIDE OF ANGER

Kevin Coster, Joan Allen, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell, Erika Christensen, Alicia Witt. Directed by Mike Binder. Rated R. 116 Minutes.


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