US, 2003, 105 minutes, Colour.
Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei, Woody Harrelson, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, Harry Dean Stanton, John Mc Enroe, Rudy Giuliani.
Directed by Peter Segal.
After Jack Nicholson's two previous films, The Pledge and About Schmidt, Anger Management seems rather frivolous. The theme is serious enough, the anger and rage that lurk beneath the surface of so many 'ordinary' people, people who feel put down and have a low self-esteem, and can erupt at the most unexpected times. However, the general setting is portrayed as realistic, the treatment is more like farce, situations for a sitcom. And, when the final twist is revealed at the end, it makes it all seem too unbelievably contrived.
Perhaps Jack Nicholson had his eye on the popular success of Robert de Niro's two 'Analyze' films - even to singing songs from West Side Story where Nicholson has it all over de Niro! The formula is some what the same except that the psychiatrist is now the seemingly crazy extravert and the client is the meek and submissive type. Jack Nicholson looks as if he has been overdosing on his performances in The Shining and The Witches of Eastwick to create his Buddy, the anger management therapist. It is left to Adam Sandler to bring the quiet and reflective atmosphere until Buddy challenges him to self-assertion and he is able to propose in front of thousands at the Yankee Stadium, urged on by Rudolph Giuliani and the fans.
In the meantime, poor Dave (Sandler's character who designs clothes for outsize pets) is caught up in assaults in a plane and in a bar which are not really of his doing. As a favour to Buddy, David is sentenced to a month's anger management with Buddy moving in and controlling David's life - and, it seems, stealing the affection of his girlfriend, Marisa Tomei. There are therapy groups with John Turturro and Luis Guzman leading the rage group. David has to persuade a girl in a bar (Heather Graham) to date him; he has to confront his childhood bully who is now a Buddhist monk (John C.Reilley); he has to challenge his boss who has overlooked him for promotion.
Many of these sequences are quite funny, especially with Sandler capitalising on his hangdog style rather than just being stupid as he has tended to do in many films. But, overall, cast expectations would lead audiences to expect something a little funnier and a little less silly.
1. Broad comedy, the blend of realism and farce? The ending and discovering that everything was set-up? How credible?
2. The New York setting, the visit to Boston, the workplaces, homes, restaurants, the Yankee Stadium? Musical score? Songs - especially West Side Story?
3. The strong cast, their style? The cameos and guests?
4. The title, the contemporary awareness of rage? Therapies?
5. The prologue, David as a young boy, the neighbourhood, the girl and the kiss, the boys pulling his pants down, his humiliation, his antagonism towards the boy - and the consequences?
6. The transition to the present, David as submissive and deferential, his reaction to pushy people, his boss, Andrew? His relationship with Linda, reserved, not kissing her in public? The irony that she set up the whole situation?
7. His going on the plane, the passenger in his seat, his being given a seat next to Buddy, the discussions, the film and Buddy demanding he have the earphones, the flight attendants gossiping, the altercation, the security guard (and his being stuck with the fat people in David's seat)? His going to court, the inept lawyer, the judge and her severity, the victims in court? His going to the bar, the clash with the blind man, with his stick, hurting the waitress? Going into court, the repeat performance? The anger management course?
8. Jack Nicholson as Buddy, strong screen presence, comical style? His book his job? His group and the range of people in the group, David at the outside? His listening, Chuck and his story and his anger, Lou and his being gay and his story? The man with the brace? The two pornography stars and their relationship? The running of the sessions? David telling his story? Buddy deciding that Chuck should be his partner? The meetings between David and Chuck, discussions? Chuck and his going off the deep end? The fights?
9. David and Linda, the careful relationship? His going to Boston, Buddy urging him on to the girl in the bar, his approach, her rejection, her later acceptance? His going to her house, the chocolate, her saying she was fat, his exasperation? Discovery that Buddy had made the phone call, the trial separation? Linda and her dating Buddy, David and the two girls in the restaurant? His shock? Thinking that Buddy would steal his proposal idea at Yankee Stadium? His going, seeing Linda and Buddy, going onto the field, urged on by Mayor Giuliani? His proposal, her assertiveness, his assertiveness? Buddy and the screen with the congratulations, seeing him at the top of the steps?
10. The therapy, thirty days, Buddy moving in: with David's boss and talking strongly to him? His moving in, sleeping, his gross behaviour, accompanying David everywhere? David receiving the phone call about Buddy's mother, exaggerating and making a joke, Buddy's serious reaction? Their playing jokes on one another? The decision to go to Boston?
11. Buddy and his daring David to go to the girl in the bar, her character, her saying he was cute, her reaction at home? The discovery that she was an actress?
12. Going to the Buddhist centre, his childhood rival being there, the peace talk, the mutual provocation, the fight, the getting it out of his system?
13. His anger and going to the club with the girls, the confrontation with Buddy? His bewilderment? The change at Yankee Stadium, the effect of the declaration of his love?
14. The picnic, the man with the gun, threatening Buddy - and David revealing that it was a joke? Their all joining hands, the revelation of the truth, a circle of life? How effective a comedy, subtlety and non-subtlety, for a popular audience, bringing attention to the issue of anger, rage and anger management?