Upside's No Downer

click to enlarge Joan Allen and Kevin Costner in The Upside of Anger. - Paul Chedlow/New Line Productions
Paul Chedlow/New Line Productions
Joan Allen and Kevin Costner in The Upside of Anger.

Another take on middle-aged romance and the gender wars, among other things, that tackles territory previously staked out by As Good as It Gets and, more often than not, gets it right.

As the title suggests, this is a movie that's ostensibly about angry or otherwise disappointed people, two of whom are aging alcoholics - but against all odds The Upside of Anger turns that daunting subject matter into what is sometimes very funny material.

The Upside of Anger is far from a perfect movie, but it's still a must-see if only for Joan Allen, a brilliant actresses who delivers a career-topping performance as a suburban housewife deserted by her husband, drowning herself in vodka, and dealing with four grown (and nearly-grown) children, as well as a washed-up baseball player (Kevin Costner) who comes sniffing around and winds up staying for the long run. Costner's no slouch either as the boozing, aging, good time boy getting by on the fumes of fame and charm - a role that might be his Bull Durham character several decades on. He slips into the role as if it were a cozy, favorite old bathrobe, even as Allen jumps into hers with both feet running and takes full, immediate command of this Diary of a Mad White Woman.

The past-their-prime but still-in-the-game lovers are right out of As Good As It Gets, and there's also more than a little Terms of Endearment soapiness here as we follow the ups and downs and in-betweens of Allen, her brood and her boozy beau, but the movie's generally smart enough not to get sucked into any predictable holes for too long. All of the expected bases are covered here, but the film manages to take us to a few unexpected places too. Also stars Erika Christensen, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell and Mike Binder (who also directs).

The Upside of Anger (R) Opens March 18 at local theaters. 1/2

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