Magazine article The Spectator

Dead End

Magazine article The Spectator

Dead End

Article excerpt

The Upside of Anger 15, Nationwide

The Upside of Anger stars Joan Allen (the wonderful, wonderful Joan Allen, that is) as Terry Wolfmeyer, a Michigan housewife whose husband of 20 years appears to have left her and their four daughters for his Swedish secretary. Terry is not happy about this. Terry freaks out, rages and hits the vodka bottle like a loon.

Terry has a neighbour, Denny (Kevin Costner), a washed-up baseball player who is now a DJ and also a drunk. Together, they do a lot of drunk-ing. Terry has many shift nighties with matching dressinggowns and this is what she wears, when she is drunk-ing.

The daughters aren't too happy about this. They do not like their mother drunking, or spending all day in her nightie, even though she has the matching dressinggowns and the colours are pretty pastels: pink; lilac; oyster-white. The daughters are all very beautiful with perfect eyebrows.

The daughters all look as if they've won Miss Teen USA at some point. The daughters all have their own journeys to make in the face of their mother's rage and their father's sudden disappearance. These journeys are fairly yucky. The film finishes on a voiceover from the youngest daughter, who gives an emetic summary of the transformative effects of anger and lessons learned. I hate it when kids do this. I always want to punch them in the face and say, 'Now, that is a lesson learned, Missy.

Imagine, talking about lessons learned, at your age! Piss off!' But all this said and you know what? This film is pretty good.

Mostly, it works. Bet you weren't expecting that, but it's true. Why would I lie to you?

Although The Upside Of Anger doesn't quite match the charm of, say, Little Miss Sunshine -- it's ultimately too sentimental for that; positively dissolves into hideous sentimentality at the end -- it's sufficiently quirky, well observed and darkly comic to take you to its naff conclusion in some style. There are some nice jokes. 'Your father is a vile, horrible, selfish pig, ' says Terry, weeping, and holding her daughters tightly to her bosom, 'but I'm not gonna trash him to you girls.' And then there are some more nice jokes. 'God, that was a misstep, ' is just one of her post-coital sayings.

But what, I think, sets this apart as a mainstream American movie is the fact that Terry is neither especially likeable nor especially agreeable. Terry is not a nice lady. …

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