The Upside of Anger Reviews
The story centers on Terry (Joan Allen), a wife and mother of four who assumes her husband has left her for a mistress upon his disappearance. As the story develops, the audience sees just how her newfound "anger" affects her relationship with her daughters while also focusing on her surprising and off-kilter relationship with former baseball player Denny (Kevin Costner).
Before examining the positives, it's best to tend to the flaws. Above all is the ultimate fate of the disappearing father. As the story is based on becoming a new, better person through anger and other similar emotions, the route the film takes is rather perplexing. While it wasn't quite an attempt to be original or even quirky, the resurfacing of the father brings nothing to the story other than making Terry's and her daughter's anger seem worthless and all for naught. A story about a family who, after slowly but surely dealing with the heartbreak that comes from a father who walks out, rebuilds itself into a new and improved mold, becomes one that discredits their anger. While the anger brings out the better in them, it is undeserved anger and indirectly suggests that their transformation into the new "them" was gotten to in the wrong way. Confusing? Well, yeah. It's an almost devastating contradiction. On a lesser extent, The Upside of Anger prides itself on being an adult drama for adults. Yet, the audience soon realizes that the narrator of the story is none other than the youngest daughter, one who is reminded of her young age and lack of maturity throughout. By her firm grasp on the family's situation and anger's involvement, the youngest daughter shows her maturity and understanding of the situation, dismissing the notion that adults are the only ones who "get it."
However, Popeye's narrating also offers a useful transitional point towards the film's successes. Certainly, Popeye's understanding shows that she is more mature and understanding than she gets credit for. Her ability to understanding reflects the fact that she too is growing up and plays into Terry's ultimate anger: the fact that she lost her husband right when her daughters are on the brink of growing up. Though anger is the most sought after theme, growing up and coming of age is equally important. As highlighted by Shep, the sleazy producer of Denny's radio show, younger women are simply more pleasant and enjoyable to be around. Youth is reflected by Popeye's growing interest in boys, Hadley's college graduation and abrupt marriage and pregnancy, Andy's occupational pursuits and Emily's dreams of being a dancer. Over-the-top situations and examples of family life? Sure. Tackled well due to a refusal to dig too deep into these matters? Definitely. Simply, Terry cannot understand them. She fits the mold the middle-aged women, angry and resentful because she seems to be caught up in monotony while her girls, in the prime of their lives, are using their aspirations to walk out of her life. Terry is disconnected from her daughters and their wants and needs because of anger, but because she fears moving on. Ultimately, losing her husband allows her to break free from her funk and appreciate the people around her, the anger simply acts as a scapegoat.
Perhaps The Upside of Anger isn't meant to be a film that's dissected or thought deeply about. Maybe it's simply telling a story that isn't your family's but very well could have been. On one hand there's a story brimming with excellent takes on anger, growing up and growing apart combined with a couple wrong turns. On the other hand there's a harmless drama featuring two good turns from Costner and Allen. Either way, The Upside of Anger has more upside than down.