Critically acclaimed writer-director-actor Mike Binder brings us deep inside the world of a family on the bridge of failure. Binder is probably best known for creating and starring in the HBO comedy series The Mind of a Married Man, which poked fun at how much a man's world changes when he finally gets married.
This time out, Binder takes on more serious subject matter and assembles an amazing cast.
Binder's The Upside of Anger finds housewife Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) on the brink of collapse when her husband disappears. Terry suspects he has been cheating on her for a while now and he finally decided to leave her and their four nearly grown-up daughters (Alicia Witt, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood).
Down the street from Terry lives retired baseball star Denny Davies (Kevin Costner), who's not quite sure what to have for breakfast – Budweiser or Coors. Davies makes his living by hosting a radio talk show where he talks about everything except baseball, much to the dismay of his producer Shep (Mike Binder).
Davies wanders down the block to the Wolfmeyer house so that he can talk to Terry's husband about a land deal. Davies has no idea what he is stepping into. Denny Davies' life is about to change in a very big way.
What is poignant about The Upside of Anger is that it is probably one of the best dramas about family since Ordinary People. It has honesty, frustration, screaming, compassion, and all the other ingredients that make families interesting. It's an amazing look at one family's evolution.
I was utterly blown away by the performance of the great Joan Allen. This woman is good in everything she does but still is barely honored by Hollywood. Her rugged, angry ice-queen Terry is so utterly flawless that it's hard to see where the real Joan might be. She is absorbed and entranced in her character.
The opposite of Allen's character is Costner's drunk of a neighbor. He is like some old sheepdog that your kid brings home and still insists on eating out of the garbage. Costner is great in this rather laid back role, which is the antithesis of Allen's ice queen.
There are a lot of great scenes between these two actors that is the cornerstone to this film.
The daughters in the film are all played by up-and-coming great actresses, but each of them really never has enough screen time to really match the performances of the adults in the piece. Still, it is amazing casting bringing these four together.
I also really like Mike Binder as the sleaze-bag Shep. Why they gave this guy the name of a dog, I am not sure. Binder is perfect as this "morally-challenged" guy who perfectly accents Costner's sleazy side.
There are times when you want to throw your popcorn at the screen, there are times when you may want to cry, and there are also those times that may cause a tingling sensation run the length of your spine. This rich landscape of performances, keen script-writing, and character development are the backbone of what makes a true drama so inspiring.
The Upside of Anger is what you can describe as a near perfect drama. (4.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.