Your head with a baseball bat

‘The Upside of Anger’ puts a wealthy family in crisis

Claire Joseph

Life’s difficult moments can reveal our true character.

That is, it’s easy to be nice or classy when things are pleasant. But when life throws you a curve ball, your real personality emerges.

“The Upside of Anger” addresses this truism.

For Terry (Joan Allen), this troubling time occurs when her husband doesn’t come home one day.

She assumes he’s abandoned his family and run off to Sweden with his secretary.

The film centers on the next three years of Terry’s life and the lives of her four daughters.

Terry’s upper-class suburban lifestyle is turned upside down when she’s stuck raising her girls alone and providing for her family – something with which she doesn’t have much experience.

She befriends Denny (Kevin Costner), a has-been baseball star and local radio show host who shares her passion for sitting on the couch and drinking.

Terry opts for Grey Goose vodka, while Denny generally sticks to Budweiser beer.

Ambitiously, the film tries to touch on a multitude of issues, including alcoholism, “broken” homes, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, infidelity, illness and early death.

Any movie trying to comment on all of these issues at once runs the risk of becoming trite – especially when the protagonist is a rich suburbanite. But the family’s various problems feel real.

For example, when Terry’s youngest daughter, Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood), develops a crush on the cute new kid in school, Gorden (Dane Christensen), she tries hard to find ways to seduce him.

Finally, Gorden admits that, although he enjoys Popeye’s friendship, he’s gay.

However, even after Gorden comes out, Popeye argues with him and offers to have sex with him to change his mind about his sexual orientation.

Gorden, though, is offended and leaves.

Popeye’s reaction might be a genuine one, especially for a sheltered girl in high school who doesn’t have much experience with knowing anyone who’s gay.

But Popeye ends up growing and learning from her initial anger and confusion. She remains loyal to Gorden and their friendship.

This new-found friendship, made through a little adversity, helps give Popeye’s life experience and wisdom.

Just like her mother, Popeye will learn more about herself and build her own character through these trials.

This progress then, is the upside of anger.