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THE UPSIDE OF ANGER

No doubt reflecting some emerging demographic, a new subgenre about single parents having troubles with their kids has sprung up, as Because of Winn-Dixie, Hide and Seek, Ice Princess, Millions, and the upcoming The Ballad of Jack and Rose attest. Or is it kids having trouble with their single parents? In Mike Binderís funny, funky, but ultimately phony film, the adults are a mess, the kids smugly self-sufficient. Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen at her brittle, hilarious best), as her daughter "Popeye" (Evan Rachel Wood) points out in voiceover, has been mad as hell since her husband vanished, presumably with his Swedish secretary, and left her with three girls to raise and financial malfeasance to overcome. So mom rails at her eye-rolling kids and drinks during the day, a hobby she shares with next-door neighbor Denny Davies (probably Kevin Costnerís best performance), a former baseball star who now makes a living with autographed balls and mall openings. They form a convincing, if dissolute and dysfunctional, couple, and the offbeat family that develops is actually rather wonderful. But Binder wants this to be a kind of Terms of Endearment with an athlete instead of an astronaut, and his contrived plotting proves the downside of Anger. (118 minutes)

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: March 18 - 24, 2005
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