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The story begins at a funeral as we see Terry Wolfmeyer, (Joan Allen) standing beside Denny Davies (Kevin Costner). Along side them is Terrys daughter Lavender (Evan Rachel Wood), nicknamed Popeye.
Popeye is narrating, telling us that her mom wasnt always angry. In fact she used to be a very nice woman, everyone loved her.
Well spend most of the rest of the movie wondering who is being buried.
It then cuts to 3 years earlier
Terry is at the breakfast table with her four daughters, Popeye, Emily, Hadley and Andy.
Terry is a wreck. While smoking and drinking she breaks down and tells her daughters that her husband, their father, has left them. Hes been gone a couple days and she knows that he left to be with his former secretary in Sweden.
After breakfast, while watching war reports on TV, Denny (holding his always present Budweiser can) knocks on the door. Terry doesnt want to see her husbands friend and avoids him.
Denny finally talks his way in and Terry tells him the news. Denny is shocked. He actually came by just to discus their backyard property, which Denny is trying to purchase to build more houses.
We learn that Denny is a former baseball star, bored out of his mind, spending his days hosting a radio talk show where hell talk about anything except baseball. The rest of his day is spent drinking, and signing cases and cases of bats and balls piled up in his living room.
Denny and Terry decide to just sit around, watch the news and drink, then drink some more.
We then see the girls in the kitchen fixing dinner. Unfortunately their dog starts nibbling on the chicken and just before they throw it out, Denny is invited over for dinner. He loves the chicken and the girls try not to laugh. They ask if hes coming back tomorrow and he say yeah, as long as theres great chicken like that.
Denny becomes very close and eventually is almost a part of the family.
Each of the girls has their own little storyline going on.
The oldest daughter, Hadley (Alicia Witt) is a college student. While away at college she falls in love, becomes pregnant then engaged to be married (in that order).
While meeting the boyfriends parents Terry makes a drunken fool of herself.
Andy (Erika Christensen) has decided not to go to college. Denny gets her a job at his radio station as a production assistant. She actually gets the job because Dennys producer, Shep, a lecherous 40 something man is instantly attracted to her.
One night Terry walks into Andys bedroom only to find her in bed with Shep.
The next scene provides the funniest moment of the film as everyone is at the dinner table, including Denny and Shep. Shep has absolutely no table manners and while he slurps his soup, Terry just glares at him. The longer she glares the higher the tension. Finally, Sheps head explodes sending blood everywhere. Cut to Terry, covered in splattered blood where she now has a very happy look on her face.
Of course it was all just in her imagination.
Eventually, Hadley is married and they have a nice reception. At the reception Terry finally has it out with Shep in a great argument that ends with Terry slapping him a few times. Shep confides that he likes younger women because they're fun and happy. He would never date a miserable, angry woman like Terry.
Daughter Popeye, (Evan Rachel Wood) is attending a private high school. She is attracted to a cute guy and her sister tells her to tell him youre from a broken home guys like that. She does but really gets no response. Eventually she has him over to work on a video for her film class that we see clips of throughout the film. She leans over to kiss him but he just turns away. Finally he confesses that hes gay. Shes heartbroken but still remains close to him.
The other daughter Emily (Keri Russell) wants to go to a performing arts school to study dancing. Terry thinks its ridiculous.
Terry and Denny (who by now is sleeping with her) are awakened one night with news that Emily is in the hospital. Terry rushes to be with her while Denny stays home to be with Popeye in case she wakes up.
The doctors are unsure if her problem is just stress or maybe even cancer. (Aha, she must be the one that dies)
Nope, turns out it was just stress.
A few weeks later while Terry is trying to have a stress free dinner with her kids and grandkid, Hadley announces shes pregnant again.
Popeye and Denny spend the day with her gay boyfriend and his dad at a bungee jumping area. We learn that the boyfriend had always bragged about jumping but hes actually too scared to. Denny, making him feel better says he is too. On the way home, Popeye asks Denny if hell marry her mom. Denny says shes to complicated.
That night Denny tells Terry what Popeye asked and Terry is furious. She screams at Denny that hes trying to use her daughter to get to her. She locks herself in the bathroom.
Denny kicks down the bathroom door and explains to her that shes got it all wrong. Hes put up with all her crap because he knows shes in pain but its got to stop. He leaves and goes back to his own house.
While at a supermarket Terry meets Shep who says that maybe the two of them should have some drinks together and talk things out. Terry refuses and is pissed.
Next we see Denny yelling at Shep at the radio station. He can't believe that he was "hitting on" terry. He fires Shep as his producer.
Finally we cut to Terrys backyard. Work has finally begun on Dennys project. One of the workers is walking through some brush and steps on an old well cover and almost falls in. He looks inside and ...
Cut to Denny running to the site. He has a flashlight and looks inside where he finds the body of Terrys husband. He never left her; He had fallen in the well while pondering Dennys offer years earlier.
We cut back to the funeral and Popeye finishes her narration of the effects of anger.
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