Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Keri Russell.
The Upside of Anger (2005)
Written and Directed by Mike Binder
Believing her husband to have run off to Sweden with his secretary, Terry (Joan Allen, Room) is the angry matriarch of four daughters: Hadley (Alicia Witt, Nashville), Emily (Russell), Andy (Erika Christensen, Parenthood) and Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld).
“A film about angry women written by a man?” It’s suspicious, sure, but Binder’s script doesn’t use anger for generalized swipes at the opposite sex. The blunt force of Terry’s anger could be called many things—honest, destructive, selfish, admirable—but never irrational.
It’s also wonderfully customized, with each daughter prey to a different branch of her fury. The question becomes ‘which came first?’ Was it Terry’s daughters keeping secrets from her, or Terry stomping them down for having opinions? Take Hadley, who waits until the day Terry meets her boyfriend to drop the news that they’re engaged, she’s pregnant and his parents already know. Blindsided, Terry can’t be held solely responsible for the bad public reaction that happens next, but she’s no more lenient to those who would include her in their future plans. Emily comes to her about enrolling in an arts college for dance theory and gets dismissed on the spot. Keri Russell’s short dance afterwards—the twirling “F— you” heard round the world—needs to be immortalized in a gif.
While Terry’s missing husband is The Upside of Anger’s bane, it’s the other men in this movie that the film could do without. Every second spent on Kevin Costner’s neighbour, Denny, and his radio station is time better spent with the Wolfmeyer women. His scene stealing isn’t charisma. It’s the Wolfmeyer’s sitting on a bench, Denny scooting in, and Emily getting knocked off. Everyone laughs at the “accident” but that’s what Denny is in this movie, an intrusion on what should be a family affair. It’s not Kevin Costner’s fault but his casting is no accident. His star power, in conjunction with co-worker Shep’s (Binder) overt perv behavior (hiring Andy because she’s hot) is supposed to make Denny not creepy by association. Sorry, but the guy treats unlocked doors, including the bathroom, like an open invitation. Norman Bates treated doors this way, too.
Verdict: Bordering on Treasure But Not Sure
Upside of Anger succeeds in capturing a family of strong women but loses something in including a disposable male lead. A few attempts at special effect don’t mesh (sure, I believe Joan Allen’s stare is intense enough to make a head explode, but it’s not an unparalleled visual) and a dark reveal at the end gets brushed over, to avoid tipping the film’s tone (causing one to wonder, why include the reveal at all?). Fans of any of these actresses will find a film worth watching in the chance to see them play and react off each other.
Check back tomorrow for Keri Russell’s turn as a mom in search of a cure.