Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
No actress has neck muscles like Joan Allen — able to gracefully reach upward or, in 2005’s The Upside of Anger, stiffly twist into a double helix of tension and anxiety.
Abandoned by her husband and left with four daughters (Alicia Witt, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell and Evan Rachel Wood) who’ve formed their own support tribe, Terry Wolfmeyer (Allen) turns to martyrdom and driving in her own nails.
Estranging her children becomes as easy as breathing, and writer-director Mike Binder boldly lets Terry remain selfish even as sickness strikes one daughter. Robbed of an Oscar nomination, Allen heedlessly throws her all into a woman who must tap emotions she’s suppressed, no matter how toxic they are.
Into the rat’s nest of Terry’s rage ambles Denny Davies (Kevin Costner) — a washed-up, liquored-up pitcher who’d like to be more than just her neighbor. Denny’s stoner-goofball vibe suits Costner, the loosest he’s been since Tin Cup and not unlike a bitter, older version of Bull Durham’s Crash Davis.
Costner could easily become a sitcom neighbor with a Budweiser prop, but ingratiatingly conveys Denny’s dissatisfaction with his life and the true appeal of a future, no matter how tumultuous, with Terry and her daughters.
Upside isn’t simply witty repartee and good chemistry. It’s about situations that can’t really last and door-kicking rage required to slap someone from comfortable, but harmful, routines.
Binder’s unexpected narrative twist wasn’t entirely welcome, but, to his credit, the conclusion was less about pulled-out rugs, more about the characters’ touching connections.