Every once in a while a movie slips through the cracks, never noticed by audiences despite a good cast and a witty screenplay. If that last sentence isn't an indication, "The Upside of Anger" is such a film. Starring Joan Allen, Kevin Costner and a few other recognizable names, "Upside" is a surprisingly funny and entertaining comedy that rises far above the expectations set by its trailers.
The previews for "Upside" were dreadfully boring. There was no shock when the movie failed to register with audiences; after all, Costner is box office poison these days and a comedy with no jokes or a drama with no strength is poised for failure. Amazingly, the only people to blame are those in the marketing department, for I haven't laughed as much as I have at "Upside" in quite a while. The plot is nothing spectacular - about a mother (Allen) who has become a drunk since her husband ran off with a younger woman and her strenuous relationship with her growing daughters and a neighbor who has the hots for her (Costner) - but the screenplay brings the story to life.
Both Allen and Costner are terrific in the leads; Allen continues to deliver dynamic characters that vary so much from past performances. She's played a Vice Presidential candidate, an icy CIA agent, a loving wife and now a bitter drunk who just so happens to be a lead in a romantic drama-comedy. Starting out as a nasty and wickedly blunt mother, she captures the audience's attention immediately and wins us over even if she is cruel - after all, it's more entertaining. Enter Costner, who counteracts with a laid back loser persona, a character Costner plays very well. As in "Tin Cup," Costner's character isn't anything special - after all, he's a bummed out radio talk show host who was hired to talk baseball but refuses to do so who gets drunk every afternoon and is annoyingly persistent about getting his way - but he wins you over with his simplistic goodness.
The two play off each other perfectly, but they are only part of the story. The daughters have some interesting storylines to work off as well. Some are better than others, but all are nice to look at. Evan Rachel Wood probably does the best out of all of them, while each actress as they get older gets a lesser role. That's no surprise since Wood is by far the best actress of the four.
In reality, I don't expect to watch "Upside" again anytime soon, but a few days ago it was a film I was considering never watching. I never thought I'd be giving such a good review to what is essentially a romantic drama, but "The Upside of Anger" is one of the funniest I have seen in a long time. And I mean that in the best of ways.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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