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Tightly wound and ready to snap
on 27 December 2005
Should anybody ever ask you the meaning of the idiom "tightly wound", you only need recommend THE UPSIDE OF ANGER as a visual explanation.
Joan Allen stars as Terry Wolfmeyer, the middle-aged mother of four daughters precipitously abandoned by her husband, who's apparently run off to Scandinavia with his Swedish personal secretary. Terry internalizes her tremendous rage, and only just manages to control it with constant alcohol consumption. Her composure is further taxed by daughters Andy (Erika Christensen), "Popeye" (Evan Rachel Wood), Emily (Keri Russell), and Hadley (Alicia Witt) - all of whom are making life choices regarding love, sex, and education with which Mom vehemently disagrees. Circling the periphery of the Wolfmeyer household looking for a romantic opportunity with Terry is Denny Davies (Kevin Costner), an easy going but lonely ex-baseball star who subsists on beer and the money earned from autographing baseballs and hosting a radio talk show.
Once again, Allen demonstrates that her acting ability is a national treasure. Is it too soon in the 2005 film season to mention Academy Award? And Costner, who's had his Big Screen ups and downs, hits it just right with Davies, a role perhaps suggesting a composite of the characters he played in BULL DURHAM and TIN CUP. The young actresses playing the daughters are all beautiful and delightful, though it stretched my credulity to believe that they were siblings. And I think that there was one sister too many. (As in the planting of garden trees, three is the "right" number.)
It's enormously refreshing both to see a love story involving a man and woman, albeit boozy walking wounded, on the down slope of middle-age, and to see at work a talented actress (Allen), who, at least for this production, managed to crack the infamous age ceiling traditionally imposed on female leads. You go, girl!
Anger, though caustic to the soul, can also keep one going during bad times. Here, when Terry's mental crutch is suddenly yanked away late in the film by a surprising discovery in the woods in back of her house, she must emotionally evolve, and do it fast or sanity is lost.
For those viewers on the far side of forty, THE UPSIDE OF ANGER should prove to be an enormously engaging movie experience about relationships and inner salvation. While it won't, perhaps, prove to be the best film of 2005, it'll certainly be in the Top 20.