THE UPSIDE OF ANGER Directed by Mike Binder. Starring Joan Allen, Kevin Costner, Erika Christensen, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, Mike Binder 15A cert, Cineworld/UCI Tallaght/Vue, Dublin, 116 min
REIGN Over Me, Mike Binder’s recent treatment of post-9/11 trauma, did not find many friends among punters or critics, but its release appears to have belatedly alerted European distributors to the existence of an earlier, marginally more digestible film by the director.
The Upside of Anger, which was released in the US in 2005, comes across like the pilot for a classy HBO comedy-drama. Borrowing certain situations from Terms of Endearment, the picture does sensible, if unsurprising things with Kevin Costner and Joan Allen as it tells a faintly soapy tale of disappointment from the US suburbs. There are worse things.
As if you needed to be told, Costner plays a washed-up ball player with a taste for the booze. The role is to Kevin what the Little Tramp is to Chaplin and the little cretin is to Rob Schneider and, to be fair, he continues to carry it off with a degree of charm.
Allen, again not straying far from type, appears as his frayed, brittle neighbour, the mother of four daughters, who is coping badly with being abandoned by her thoughtless husband. Both adults share a taste for daytime boozing and a suspicion that their options in life are fast running out.
After becoming friends and then lovers, they slowly come to realise that, despite their driving one another crazy, a life together might be better than any of those diminishing alternatives.
There is, the pompous title aside, plenty wrong with The Upside of Anger. The voguish actors playing the daughters get to do different things – one scores with Kevin’s creepy colleague, another falls ill, a third gets married – but each seems to be inhabiting the same personality. Also, the leads, neither of whom could survive a second against the heroes of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, never quite behave as the properly drunk do.
Still, Binder’s film is sincerely meant and consistently wry. It should pass the time well enough while you await the next rerun of Six Feet Under.
Costner and Allen: never quite behave as the properly drunk do