Anger Management

Anger Management. 
Columbia Pictures 2003.

Before watching the movie:

This is another movie I’ve been pretty sure would show up here eventually since almost the beginning. Back when Adam Sandler made movies people wanted to watch, I guess.

It’s been quite clear that this is about a guy and his therapist living together and driving each other crazy, but it wasn’t as apparent until I saw what I’m looking at now that the patient isn’t actually all that explosive, except around his eccentric therapist.

The “client and patient shackled together and nearly kill each other” concept is similar to Analyze This and What About Bob?, the former to the point (at least on the surface) that if this movie and Analyze This weren’t five years apart I’d call them duelling movies.

After watching the movie:

Dave Buznik is a meek, reserved man whose boss yells at him for nothing and takes credit for Dave’s work, and his girlfriend Linda is still best friends with her perfect ex-boyfriend Andrew. On a flight to a business meeting, Dave sits next to a loud, annoying, man named Buddy who needles him into having an altercation with an inattentive flight attendant who escalates the discussion into a problem an air marshal needs to deal with, and Dave gets charged with assaulting her and sentenced to anger management therapy. Administered by Buddy Rydell, anger management therapist and loud airplane seatmate. Despite having seen what really happened, Buddy refuses to sign the forms releasing Dave from his sentence because he diagnoses Dave with “implosive anger”, like a cashier who silently takes abuse until one day just shooting up the place. After Dave accidentally gets caught in a barfight and accidentally breaks a waitress’s nose, Buddy declares that more extreme, hands-on therapy is needed, moves into Dave’s apartment, shadows him at work, and interferes with Dave’s relationship with Linda.

I feel like there could have been more tasteful ways to deal with Dave’s romantic and sexual insecurities, but it was the early 2000s, when everything was on the table regardless of how tacky or poorly understood it was, and so the movie frequently hits the “no homo” and “relationship is ownership” buttons. I think there was unmined potential to be had from the idea that Dave has trouble with public displays of affection due to a childhood trauma, but it really only gets shown once and alluded to once or twice more to set up the climax, so it doesn’t feel as earned as they wanted it to be.

The final reveal doesn’t sit well with me. It seems too easy and obvious an out to wrap things up with a perfect happy ending. I don’t know what I would replace it with though, because not having a twist would just be putting Dave through a hellstorm of coincidences that strain credulity, even for humiliation conga line-style stories.

This movie is only a little bit funny and only a little bit sweet. It’s only a little bit wacky. It’s only a little bit raunchy, but manages to be the worst kind of raunchy all the same. Somehow everything is set to high, the cast all turn in pretty good performances, but the result is not as much of anything as it was intended to be.

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