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What would you do? You’re a middle-aged woman living in a big, suburban home. You and your husband have four daughters, one in high school, one in college and two in-between. Then one evening, your husband doesn’t come home – the same day, you find out, his secretary runs off to Sweden with her mysterious lover.
In Mike Binder’s “The Upside of Anger,” this is Terry Wolfmeyer’s (Joan Allen) situation. She decides to get mad.
And she finds a few things to keep her furious.
Her 18-year-old daughter Andy (Erika Christensen) wants to get a job straight out of high school, despite her mother’s adamant desire that she continue her education. When she finds a job, she simultaneously finds a very inappropriate boyfriend.
Her daughter Emily (Keri Russell) wants to pursue a career in dancing, and plans to attend an arts college – hardly a “real” college in her mother’s livid eyes.
Much to Terry’s satisfaction, her eldest, Hadley (Alicia Witt), is graduating from college. However, she’s also getting married – which she tells her mother right before she meets him for the first time.
The youngest, “Popeye” (Evan Rachel Wood) spends her free time smoking pot and trying to convince her gay friend Gordon (Dane Christensen) to sleep with her. Fortunately, these conversations happen well out of her mother’s earshot.
Terry’s only happy – or rather, unseething – moments come from a combination of vodka and the company of her neighbor Denny Davies (Kevin Costner). Denny also likes to drink. That’s about it. He used to play baseball but now he doesn’t want to talk about it –not even on his radio show, on which he prefers an “all-jazz format.”
I’ll just say this first: I don’t know if it’s because of “Waterworld” or that horrible golf movie (“Tin Cup”) but I always categorize Costner along with Bryan Adams, Michael Bolton and other slick, quasi-sexy men my mother might find attractive if she were not wildly in love with my dad.
But I liked him in “The Upside of Anger.” His character, especially in light of my predisposed dislike for the actor himself, could have easily come off as an extreme creep. He drinks all day. He hits on Terry the minute he finds out her husband has run off. He’s lazy, slobby and aging disgracefully.
But he’s also kind, genuine, compassionate, patient and, strangely, respectable. These qualities win over Terry and they won me over, too.
And both of us were tough sells. Mesa Public Library’s Free Film Series will screen “The Upside of Anger” (R) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Admissionand popcorn are free. My score: Four out of five kernels.