I seem to have this thing for chick-flicks. I’m not entirely sure why.
Before you jump the gun, no, I don’t mean stuff like The Princess Diaries. I mean stuff like The Upside of Anger. It tells the story of Terry Wolfmeyer, a middle-aged housewife who finds that her husband has just disappeared, ostensibly with his Swedish secretary. Her anger at this situation is essentially the subject of the movie. She has four daughters, all in different stages of rebellion. And then there’s Denny, ex-baseball player, neighbour and drinking buddy.
When you look purely at the plot, you find yourself underwhelmed. There isn’t much that is surprising or groundbreaking here. The husband’s disappearance is just a plot device, and feels somewhat contrived. The performances are mostly solid, but not in the groundbreaking category. What holds it all together is an absolutely magnificent lead performance from Joan Allen as Terry. This is a character who is mostly defined by her anger. I don’t think her husband had anything to do with it either – it was all there. Her daughters, who are mostly the targets of her acerbic wit, deal with it by generally ignoring it as far as possible.
Although there is all that anger, there is also a lot of love. A moment that brings it out in a strange but nice way is when the family is having dinner and one of her daughters, who is about to get married, announces that she is pregnant. Her mom’s instinctive response is: “Jesus.” It is such an unsuitable, yet typical response that one of the daughters starts laughing. Pretty soon the whole family, including Terry, has joined in.
I have a thing for scenes where the characters all end up laughing. When it is done well, I find myself caught up in the laughter. It has to be unforced, though. The dinner scene after the rugby match in Namaste London is probably one of the best examples I’ve seen in this category.