A review of “The Upside of Anger” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for nudity and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

 

 

Kevin Costner delivers the performance of a lifetime in this quirky suburban drama about love, loss and a houseful of headstrong daughters.

Joan Allen has fashioned a successful career out of struggling moms and thus gives good face to Terry Wolfmeyer, a caustic mother of four from a swanky Detroit suburb whose husband has up and left the family for another woman.

Terry copes the only way she knows how, from the bottom of a bottle.  The social strictures of her upper middle-class existence segue into steely liberation laced with trepidation and despair.

Wandering into the middle of this twisted feminine energy is lonely hound-dog neighbor Denny Davies (Costner), a genial retired baseball star who likes his drink as much as the thought of Terry’s sexy body next to his.

Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned as Terry’s family and friends find out the hard way.  The fur flies throughout, offering plenty of potential for pathos and pain.  Eldest daughter Hadley (Alicia Witt) announces that she’s marrying her college sweetheart when she has conveniently neglected to mention to her mother that she has been dating him – for several years.  Emily (Keri Russell) yearns to be a professional dancer but Terry can’t and won’t stomach the idea. 

When spirited Andy (Erika Christensen) announces that she’s forgoing college for a job at a local radio station (courtesy of Denny’s tenuous connections), the hostile look on Terry’s face speaks volumes.  Teenage Popeye (the magnificent Evan Rachel Wood) flies under the radar while trying to cope with the first-class bitch who has pilfered her mother’s soul.

Costner manages an arc he hasn’t before; boozing bozo with strong but subtle character and a good heart to match. As he persistently wades through Terry’s rage his volatile charm washes over the narrative with unexpected grace. Allen is the consummate pro, perpetually bringing something fresh and unpredictable to the table.

Despite its occasionally overwrought scripting Anger’s comedy is refreshingly black and its farcical edge sharp.  Midlife crises at their most neurotic and compassionate -- what’s not to like?