The Upside of Anger DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE FEATURE
The Upside of Anger was one of those films that I missed in the theater. It happens like that sometimes. There are so many movies out and some just get lost in the shuffle. In the case of this movie that is really sad because if someone like me (a person who goes to the movies at least once a week), misses a film as good as this, then lord knows how many other people didn't see it. Kevin Costner and Joan Allen are the main stars on display here but everyone is good in this movie. Even the smaller roles are done in such a way that they make a memorable impression.

This film seems to be about a mother who must hold her family together when her husband runs off to Sweden to shack up with his secretary. The mother (Joan Allen) soon starts spending time with a local radio DJ and ex-baseball star (Kevin Costner), and interweaved around all of this are the mothers four daughters played excellently by Keri Russell, Evan Rachel Wood, Erika Christensen and Alicia Witt. While at times it seemed like this movie was going to meander down anti-male territory, it really used the easy going character of Costner to good effect so that this never happened. In the end, we realize that things aren't always as they seem and it is then that the true theme of this movie really hits home.
THE EXTRAS
8 Deleted Scenes

I was very impressed by how well done these deleted scenes were. A lot of times you see deleted scenes on DVDs and they look bad. The picture is fuzzy, there is timecode running along the screen and I just find it really hard to get into. These scenes looked really good but it was easy to see why they were cut from the final movie. They seem just a bit much and too image laden in parts. I felt that one thing this movie did really well was create a nice bit of levity with scenes that were serious but also comedic. Had certain scenes been kept in or allowed to run for the length with which they were shot, I think that ultimately this film would not have the light, realistic tone that it does. The viewer also has the option to view these scenes with a commentary track.

Commentary with Director Mike Binder, Joan Allen and Moderated by Filmmaker Rod Lurie

This was interesting mainly because Rod Lurie had nothing to do with the movie in a production sense. He directed both Binder and Allen in his film The Contender, and that is how they met. Binder subsequently wrote this script and thus the movie was made with Allen in the lead. This commentary is very much like the movie itself because it is funny, but it isn't too funny and basically it just feels like some friends got together to discuss a project they are very proud of. One thing you really do get a sense of is Mike Binder's love of movies and especially lower budget, character-type pieces.

Creating "The Upside of Anger" Featurette

A pretty typical featurette. It begins by talking about the screenplay and why heavy hitters like Kevin Costner wanted to be involved. From there they talk about the talent involved in the film and when you think about it, how in the world did they get such a solid cast of names on what was probably a pretty low budget? Also, I think it's interesting that at one point the script for this movie was such a hot property, and yet it ended up having to be made independently. Although, when you examine the subject matter and ideas in the movie, it makes sense that it was made on the cheap. It really is a just a very well made film with solid performances, but sadly it seems like those types of movies just find themselves with limited audiences.
THE VIDEO
Presented in a format preserving the 2.35:1 aspect ratio of it's theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. While I think this movie was an "indy" film, and it is shot in a college town back East where the seasons are very prevalent (another overused "indy" device), I never felt that the movie got mired in this any way. It never seemed to lose itself amongst the look of the film. The actors just acted. They were allowed to say their lines without enormous weight being applied to every word. Yet at the same time, this was a very strong movie. The themes, ideas and performances being put across are very heavy but they aren't boring. At no point in this movie did I ever think I knew what was going to happen next. I followed this movie all the way and I love that nothing about Mike Binder's directorial style foreshadowed anything. I hope he makes more films.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital - English: 5.1 Surround Sound - English: Stereo Surround Sound. One thing I have to thank Mike Binder for is that when this movie first started, I thought it was going to be just another indy/woman's movie. Yet, I think he used this device to create a strong ensemble piece that would subvert the viewers preconceived notions. He never used the music to tell me what to feel. The sound design of the film wasn't done in such a way to squeeze all the emotion out of every scene. You watch this film and you really are seeing characters acting, or I guess I should say interacting because it doesn't seem like these people are putting on performance.
THE PACKAGE
As far as I remember this cover is the same one that was used in the posters for the film's theatrical run. It looks like an independent just because it seems like it's about relationships. You have Costner and Allen in a solemn moment with a picture of the 4 daughters under them sharing a laugh that seems genuine. The back cover features some more shots from the movie, there is an extras listing, a description of the film, a cast list and tech specs. For a film like The Upside of Anger I think this packaging more then gets the job done. Lets be honest, it's not like this film needs action figures of the Costner or Allen characters to come with it.
THE FINAL WORD
Why The Upside of Anger works is because it is one of those rare films that is working on you and you don't even realize it. It is a film examining anger yet not overtly. This, however, certainly isn't all that it is. It is a movie that looks at our perceptions of other people. It is a character study but not really a study of the characters in the movie. It is a film about the human condition. About how we act. Our impulses, our desires, our expectations, etc. This is a film in which there is something for everybody because everyone watching will see some aspect of themselves in it.

Initially, when the movie first started I thought that it was going to be one of the "those" movies. A Mona Lisa Smile with an edge. While I liked that film, at the end of the day it was a pretty typical movie. With The Upside of Anger it doesn't neatly wrap everything up. Everything isn't okay in the end, it's a bit better. Much like I how I felt after this movie ended.

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