THE UPSIDE OF ANGER
THE UPSIDE OF ANGER (L, R): Upscale Detroit suburban wife and mother Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) is angry because her husband has disappeared. She begins drinking heavily, leaving her four daughters—Hadley (Alicia Witt), Emily (Keri Russell), Andy (Erika Christensen) and Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood)—to cope the best they can. Popeye, the youngest, is the wise voice-over observer as problems arise.
Denny (Kevin Costner), a neighbor who is a pro-baseball star turned radio talk-show host, stops by while in a marijuana and beer stupor to discuss a business matter with Terry’s missing husband. Eventually, Denny and Terry become friends, drinking partners and lovers, but her relationship with her daughters becomes strained.
Anger is drama, comedy, mild love story and mystery. Above all, it is an examination of how anger can eat away at a person and threaten all the good things in life for the sake of one bad thing over which that person has no control. “Why is it,” asks Popeye, “that people bite rather than kiss and slap rather than stroke?” Eventually, this journey changes Terry and her relationship with her daughters for the better.
Writer/director/actor Mike Binder has created a superb movie, not so much by making a contemporary women’s film that evokes, in broad strokes, the outline of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (mother and four daughters struggling and alone because the father is away), but because he is exploring the nature of all human anger. He deftly shows us where anger can lead us and the destructive behavior it fuels, as well as a way out.
Joan Allen and Kevin Costner both give believable performances. This is not a film that glorifies behaving badly and irresponsibly but rather one that tells the truth about an ugly aspect of our humanity over which we do have control. Alcohol and drug use; brief sexual situations and themes that some adults may find upsetting.
BRIDE AND PREJUDICE
BRIDE AND PREJUDICE (A-2, PG-13): Lalita (Aishwarya Rai) is the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bakshi (Nadira Babbar and Anupam Kher), landed gentry in India who have fallen on hard times. They want to marry off their four daughters to wealthy men so that they, as well as their offspring, will be taken care of.
Balraj Bingley (Naveen Andrews of Lost) is a visitor from England who comes to town with his sister, Kiran (Indira Varma), for a friend’s wedding. Accompanying them is an American businessman, Will Darcy (Martin Henderson).
Balraj is immediately attracted to Jaya Bakshi (Namrata Shirodkar), the oldest daughter. Darcy and Lalita are attracted but suspicious of one another.
The third daughter, Lucky (Peeya Rai Chowdhary), becomes attracted to Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies), an old acquaintance of Will’s who shows up and complicates matters. Much to Mrs. Bakshi’s delight, Mr. Kholi (Nitin Chandra Ganatra) is a nerdy and rich real-estate salesman from Los Angeles who is looking for a wife.
Based on Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, this delightful Bollywood disco-musical is by international filmmaker Gurinder Chadha. Audiences will remember her 2000 What’s Cooking? about culturally diverse families in Los Angeles at Thanksgiving and the 2002 sleeper hit Bend It Like Beckham about the teen daughter of Indian Sikhs living in the United Kingdom who defies her parents to play soccer.
Like those films, Bride explores the tension between cultures, tradition and the modern world. And like Austen’s novel, the charm is found in the characters.
Austin’s romantic legacy lives on. The man (Darcy) is proud and the woman (Lalita) is prejudiced but, for the relationship to work, each must permit humility and tolerance to flourish. The setting, the music and dancing, so lavishly expressed through Indian culture, compete with the story for our attention; some sexual references.
MISS CONGENIALITY 2: ARMED AND FABULOUS (A-2, PG-13): F.B.I. field agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is getting back into action after saving Miss United States at a beauty pageant (Miss Congeniality, 2000). She’s recovering from breaking up with Agent Matthews.
When Hart is recognized during an undercover op, her supervisor, McDonald (Ernie Hudson), offers her the chance to become the “face” of the F.B.I. and assigns Joel (Diedrich Bader) as the personal consultant who orchestrates Gracie’s makeover. Gracie milks her celebrity status for all it’s worth: She writes a book, has book signings and gives advice to young girls.
She also gets a bodyguard, Agent Sam Fuller (Regina King), whose anger problem has landed her in New York for an attitude adjustment. She and Gracie dislike each other immediately.
When the beauty-pageant winner, Cheryl (Heather Burns), and the pageant host, Stan (William Shatner), are kidnapped in Las Vegas, Gracie and her bodyguard are sent to represent the F.B.I. while the local agents work the case. The caper begins when Gracie starts her own investigation.
At first glance the comedic timing is a little off, the pranks so-so and the plot development sluggish. Yet this sequel is more obvious than superficial. It is a medium with a message (to borrow from communication theorist Marshall McLuhan) for its female audience. Self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-sacrifice and friendship head the list. Sam Fuller’s anger-management issues provide a way to address nonviolence as well.
At the end of the movie, Agent Hart asks, “What do all beauty pageant contestants want more than anything?” She means it when she answers, “World peace.” The ending works and is, perhaps, the best part of the movie, along with Agent Fuller’s Tina Turner impersonation; some gender cross-dressing and comedic action sequences.
REVELATIONS (NBC, six-part miniseries, beginning April 13): Sister Josepha Montafiore (Natascha McElhone) tracks religious phenomena around the world. So far, the data indicate that the apocalypse is imminent.
She enlists the help of a Harvard astrophysicist and nonbeliever, Dr. Richard Massey (Bill Pullman), to verify if the end is really coming and, if so, find a way to stop it. More importantly, Sister Josepha and the nuns she lives with believe that Jesus is coming again: They must find him and save him from the evil one.
Revelations, written by David Seltzer (Dragonfly, The Omen), has high production values and an excellent cast. When I was asked by the show’s publicity firm to review the first episode from the perspective of a religious sister, it narrowed my focus from the End Times theme to the representation of religious life.
The religious sisters in this mini-series interpret the Scriptures literally, disregarding official Church teaching. They have placed themselves and their activities regarding the End Times outside of Vatican jurisdiction, and they are proud of it. In one fell swoop, Seltzer has made these sisters schismatics and heretics (and he probably doesn’t even know it).
In addition, I do not know of any religious women who give credence to vague images of Jesus that appear mysteriously on the sides of mountains, as the highly educated Sister Josepha does. I did not find the nuns to be authentic, though they provide the dramatic authority for the series and this serves the story well enough.
Like all other television shows, movies and novels about the apocalypse, Revelations is an imaginary dramatization based on the writer’s (not the Church’s) interpretation of the Book of Revelation. This weekly miniseries is obviously fictional and wants to capitalize on the success of recent religious productions.