Look Back in Anger: Self-Pitying Drunks Drown in Glib Alkie Romance

Hammered house of horror: Costner, Allen
hoto: Paul Chedlow/New Line Productions
Hammered house of horror: Costner, Allen

Contrary to the title, it's all downside here. Having announced that her husband has absconded to Sweden with his mistress, affluent suburban-Detroit homemaker Terry (Joan Allen) dives headfirst into a barrel of Scotch and redirects the rage of the betrayed wife onto her four fair daughters, her hubby's wardrobe, and loitering neighbor Denny (Kevin Costner), a faded baseball champ turned sauced radio host who makes a second home out of Terry's newly manless abode, where the TV set hums with the late-2001 drone of anthrax scares and the war in Afghanistan. Lousy with drink and self-pity, Terry alternately ignores, resents, and exacerbates the various troubles of her apparently housebound girls: Aspiring dancer Keri Russell won't eat; thoughtful teen Evan Rachel Wood dabbles in bad voice-over narration ("It's real, though, the fury, even when it's not"); pregnant bride Alicia Witt is boring and bourg; and college-averse hottie Erika Christensen voluntarily and repeatedly enters sexual congress with Shep, the greased rodent who manages Denny's radio affiliate and happens to be played, in an endlessly fascinating casting decision, by writer-director Mike Binder. (Costner and Binder maintain the same, somewhat pubic six-day stubble throughout.) The love match between puffy, giddy lush Denny and gaunt, wrathful lush Terry only convinces when the blood alcohol levels reach their peak (Costner's big moment: "I am sick of being your bitch!") and the film has exhausted itself with fits of glib hysteria long before its truly stupefying final twist, a stunning betrayal of audience trust.

 
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