The Upside of Anger (2005)

upside_of_anger_ver5One man in a house full of really hot women. “Dear Penthouse…” I’m just kidding, but don’t act like that didn’t cross your mind, guys. With a house of Erika Christensen, Joan Allen, Keri Russell, Alicia Witt, and Evan Rachel Wood, some thoughts are bound to cross your mind. And we’re back: either way, “The Upside of Anger” is a romance comedy drama semi-family film that I actually found quite entertaining. A film like this has every single chance to become cliché, predictable, and very much of a television sitcom with a big budget, but I found myself entranced by what was happening on-screen.

Writer Binder actually manages to compose a group of character on the screen before the audience and draws them as human and engaging even in their selfish, self-centered worlds upon which they torment each other. Here are a group of women so selfish, they manage to form bonds and turn on each other at the same time, while this basically selfish man finds solace in their mom. “The Upside of Anger” is about how people tend to stay in one bitter form their whole lives due to the inability to let go and move on with their lives, and Allen’s Terry really becomes the example of such a concept. It’s rare that I’m able to watch a romance comedy with such complex and three-dimensional characters. Romance comedies are filled with nothing but horny teenagers, or broadly drawn characters, but Binder really paints a very well-defined picture.

With a great cast of actors, “Upside” is very much in the vein of “Hannah and her Sisters” in which we watch an entire family of women coming to grips with the separation of their parents and attempting to welcome a new element to their house. Meanwhile, each sub-plot intermingles every so often with each daughter’s sub-plot involving their coming of age, but the film is ultimately stolen by the incomparable talents of Allen and Costner whom both hold the movie up with their sheer skill. Costner is back in rare form, as is Allen who gives a great performance as the emotionally cold and bitter Terry refusing to let her friend Denny in to fall for her.

In one of the best displays of Allen’s talent, she basically self-destructs during a first time meeting of her daughters’ in-laws, and also pits her daughters against their father who re-married. It’s tough to sympathize for her when she gets herself in to the situations often. But, only Allen could portray such a selfish, self-centered character and still be likable. “Upside” is a film filled with raw talent with a truly good story and excellent performances. It’s an underrated gem. It’s a generally crowd-pleasing romance comedy that has characters that actually feel human and complex. Binder’s writing is matched by the top-notch talents on display here. With show stopping performances by Allen and Costner, “Upside” is a sweet, and engrossing adult romance comedy.