Terry Wolfmeyer, indelibly played by the reliably brilliant Joan Allen, knows from pride and prejudice. This diva of the Detroit burbs wants the best in schools, jobs and men for her four daughters — Hadley (Alicia Witt), Emily (Keri Russell), Andy (Erika Christensen) and Popeye (Evan Rachel Wood). Always determined, Terry is now royally pissed off. Her husband has split (she’s sure it’s with his Swedish secretary), and, using alcohol to fuel her fire, she’s on the attack, ting with her family.
From that premise, director-writer Mike Binder, himself a child of divorce, hits us with the first film of the new year that stays with you — a fiercely funny human comedy with jokes that sting and leave marks. Allen is the blaze that lights the film, and Witt, Russell, Christensen and Wood complement her beautifully with their own distinctive shadings. But the whopper surprise is Kevin Costner, back at the top of his game after years of coasting. He digs into the role of Denny, a retired baseball turned stoned radio DJ who offers Terry a famous shoulder to lean on. OK, when she offers him a quickie, he hides in his yard, but Denny knows to stick around. Costner is a marvel, lacing the role with unforced humor and charm. Binder, best known for HBO’s The Mind of the Married Man, springs a contrived twist ending but otherwise keeps the emotions real and played close to the bone. He also excels as Shep, Denny’s radio producer who seduces young Andy and incurs her mother’s wrath. The scene in which Terry imagines Shep’s head exploding exemplifies the bold strokes of a film that manages to be both hilarious and haunting.