Binders Upside of Anger has very little downside

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Upside of Anger is bright, funny and a very touching film that features some quality performances including an early contender for Oscar consideration. Its the kind of film that proves when you have a script with strong characters, good things can happen.

Joan Allen stars as Terry, a suburban housewife who is left to raise her four daughters after her husband disappears with his secretary.

Her husbands decision leaves Terry very bitter. Eventually Terry finds comfort in Denny (Kevin Costner), a former baseball player. Denny begins to help Terry cope with the loss of her husband and the growing pressures of caring for four very independent daughters (Erika Christensen, Evan Rachel Wood, Keri Russell and Alicia Witt).

Part of the charm of The Upside of Anger is the superb work by its great cast.

Allen has always been one of my favorite actresses, but she is in top form here. Terry isnt a character who is especially likable. Shes an alcoholic and takes out a lot of her frustrations on her children, but Allens performance is so impressive that she manages to make Terry sympathetic despite her flaws.

Its a performance with so much depth that, if the film had been released in December, Allen would have been my choice for best actress. I only hope that voters dont forget this film, because Allen deserves at the very least a

nomination.

The rest of the cast leaves a positive impression as well.

Christensen, Wood, Russell, and Witt each have their moments with Christensen and Wood getting perhaps the juicer roles and Costner delivers his best performance in recent memory.

Of course it helps when actors are given a strong screenplay, and that is the case with The Upside of Anger.

Writer/director Mike Binder does a nice job of composing a screenplay rich with flawed characters, much like the underrated 1991 film Once Around with Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter. Binder even throws in a final act that is best left a secret.

Some may feel cheated by the secret, but I think it gives the film a completely different insight and only enhanced my appreciation. Its rare to have a movie surprise you with its quality and depth, but I was floored by The Upside of Anger.

Discount dud of the week

This weeks discount dud is The Phantom of the Opera (C) the long awaited film version of the popular Broadway musical that doesnt quite deliver on its potential.

The legions of Phantom fans already know the story, but for those who dont here is a quick rundown a disfigured musician (Gerard Butler) who hides out in a Paris Opera House takes a young protege (Emmy Rossum), whom he eventually fails in love with. When his love is threatened, the Phantom is outraged and seeks revenge as well as the affection of the young student.

Joel Schumacher directs and while Ill admit that the director of Flatliners and St. Elmos Fire wouldnt have been my first choice to direct The Phantom of the Opera, he does deliver an impressive looking film.

Rossum is a stunning beauty and very effective, but the movies biggest problem is Butler. He comes off rather dull in a role that requires someone a lot more dynamic. Its interesting to note that John Travolta and Antonio Banderas where originally linked to this role, and either would have been a much better choice.

The Phantom of the Opera opens Friday at the Plaza 6, where all movies are $1.50.

Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton has never been on Broadway, but he did play a street urchin in a high school production of Annie. If you would like to cast him in your next musical or you want to talk movies, e-mail him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com

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