Monday, June 20, 2005

The Upside of Anger

I wasn't about to watch The Upside of Anger if not for the free preview ticket courtesy of
Starring Joan Allen (whom action fans will recognize as Sean Archer's wife) and Kevin Costner (I think I last saw him in Thirteen Days), this film tells the tale of relationships between an alcoholic mum and her 4 girls, when the man of the household apparently walked out on them to be in Sweden with his secretary.

And my, with 4 girls, it's eye candy galore - Keri Russell (Felicity anyone?), Erika Christensen (Swimfan), Evan Rachel Wood and Alicia Witt. This film takes its time to tell its tale of the bitterness felt by Allen when her husband left her. To manage this, she turns to the bottle, and naturally, things take their toil on inter-personal relationships.

With Russell, Allen compares the love she thought Russell had for her dad didn't measure up to the one Russell had for her. Allen imposes her will and desires on Russell, which bred contempt, and Russell thinks she isn't getting all the support she needs from her mom to pursue her dream of being a ballerina.

With Erika, Allen frowns upon her relationship with her manager "Shep", who is at least twice her age. It is hilarious watching Allen confronting "Shep", with the hard-hitting slaps, and her chancing upon her daughter having sex with him. Of mention is that "Shep" is also played by writer/director (of this film) Mike Binder (hmm... no prizes here)

With her eldest child Witt, Allen gets frustrated when she's the last to know, during Witt's graduation, that she is pregnant and intends to get married. The scene with the in-laws is laced with so much tension, you'll just be hanging onto your seat for the outburst.

The youngest child, and the narrator of the story, had to grapple with falling in love with a gay teenager, who happens to also come from a broken home. The scene in which she tests his "gayness" and challenges / questions his sexual orientation is classic.

Where does Costner come into all this? As a has-been baseball player who now deejays at a local station, who introduced Erika to "Shep", who becomes a drink buddy with Allen, who develops a likeable relationship with all the siblings - a surrogate father of sorts, and somehow seems to be able to take all the bitchiness that Allen exudes, and to almost always, diffuse tense situations.

There is a key theme running through all relationships, and that is to think before you shoot your mouth off. Sometimes sticks and stones may not hurt you, but words and misrepresented intentions often will.

It all comes to an end with a depressing revelation that makes you think, what if, and one in which makes all characters think through their current state of being, and to question, the upside of anger.

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