Working on the premise that a beautiful young woman could fall for a much older man The Oranges offers their story to a purely romantic audience. Billing the film as a scandal of sex and betrayal, in this day and age where nothing’s impossible this movie fails to surprise. Even though the acting here does bring some semblance of entertainment, it’s not enough to warrant more than below average fare.
The story centers on two families living in West Orange, New Jersey on Orange Drive in a well-kept neighborhood in the subburbs. The Wallings, David (Hugh Laurie) and Page (Catherine Keener) have two children Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) and Toby (Adam Brody). Across the street live their best friends the Ostroff’s Terry (Oliver Platt) and Cathy (Allison Janney) who have a free spirited daughter Nina (Leighton Meester) living in San Francisco.
One day after a fiery break up with her fiancé Ethan (Sam Rosen) at her birthday party Nina returns home to seek solace. Never very close to her mom, she returns with much trepidation on the pretense of spending Thanksgiving with the family. Cathy feels that her daughter can do much better than Ethan and pushes her to go out with Toby since they had some history together in High School. When she avoids any real relationship with Toby and starts flirting with David, a midlife crisis love affair begins involving an impulsive Nina and the 50-year-old family man.
The reactions on each side of the families create some laughter, disdain and even emotional acceptance for a time, but as the movie plays out it becomes more of a fight with most everyone taking sides. I like the way Oliver Platt handles his character Terry who although upset that his best friend has robbed his cradle, has another side that borders thoughts of his own midlife changes. Allison Janney takes her character a little too off-the-wall, but in this case it’s certainly expected.
But the beater in the mixing bowl of life turns out to be Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) who was close to Nina as BFF in high school before she got snubbed by her for the ‘in’ crowd. She has become livid now that Nina has stolen her father. Shawkat puts on a great show with her rants and disbelief. She’s probably the only believable character in the room, as both Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener miss big time with their David and Page roles.
First time mainstream film director Julian Farino turns the story into a daytime soap not being able to create any romantic chemistry between David and Nina. The two lovers give me the feeling that they’re escaping rather than uniting as a new couple from the very beginning of their affair. If this is Farino’s intention, it fails to make a whole lot of sense for the sympathetic ending he proposes.
The Oranges has been rated R by the MPAA for language including sexual references, and some drug use. If anything the film doesn’t rise about PG-13 with the absence of any real sexual intimacy.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Lack of creativity turns the film into an unexciting soap.★★★★★★
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