John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

The Oranges

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Julian Farino

Cast: Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat, Adam Brody, Leighton Meester

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: October 5th 2012

There is something that rings uniquely true about the new dramedy “The Oranges.” The film focuses on two families that are surprisingly close in their small-town community. The story begins with the two sets of parents spending much of their time together and bonding. They are all very close to each other until one of the four parents betrays his wife and begins dating his neighbor’s daughter.

Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener play David and Paige Walling, link a typical suburban couple with two adult children. Their daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) lives at home and has to endlessly put up with being a fifth wheel while their son Toby (Adam Brody) lives away and only visits on rare occasions. Across from their nicely-manicured home live Terry and Carol Ostroff (Olver Platt and Allison Janney), who have a wayward daughter named Nina (Leighton Meester).

Near the beginning of the film, Nina announces to her parents that she’s getting engaged over the phone. Of course- with the families being so close- the announcement is done via speakerphone where all of the adult friends can hear it at the same time. That announcement, however, is quickly followed by Nina finding her fiancé cheating. Much to her parent’s pleasure, she decides to return home for Thanksgiving.

Soon enough, the families are playing matchmakers hoping that Toby and Nina end up together but a boring evening between the two of them ends abruptly and Nina ends up sitting on a couch with David. The two are having a normal conversation when he bends over and kisses her. Thus begins a romantic relationship between the two of them and that relationship—which is quickly discovered- soon becomes the focal point of the film as the romance begins interrupting their idyllic lives.

One of the great aspects of the film is how real much of the set-up feels. Although the May-December romance begins abruptly, the backdrop is nicely defined and strangely realistic. From Terry’s obsession with the latest technology to the inevitable conversation at the Thanksgiving table about the benefits of shopping on Black Friday, the story captures some of the everyday personality traits of its characters. Viewers will likely recognize some of these qualities in their own friends and colleagues.

In many ways, the film seeks to replicate the under-appreciated wonder of  “City Island” (2009). Like that movie, this film relies on character development and a few comedic moments to bring the story to life. “The Oranges” can’t manage to follow that same formula though but it offers something that is enjoyable in its own way.

Even though the film has some major plot holes– the foremost being how quickly the relationship between Toby and Nina develops– watching the movie is a satisfying way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Sure, some of the resolutions feel forced and the fights staged. But these actors bring the story to life and it’s fun to watch a cast of solid actors play against each other.

Whether they are fighting over relationships or bonding over dinner, the two families at the heart of “The Oranges” make this film worth seeing.

Review by: John Hanlon