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The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
Boring and unlikable, following the lives of two selfish people, The Oranges gives you nothing to root for but nihilism.
Stealing the American Beauty plotline of "father falls for daughter's best friend," the film is narrowly focused on two families. One of the dads, played by Hugh Laurie, begins an affair with one of the daughters, Leighton Meester, who's in crisis mode after breaking up with her fiancee and leaving her life in California to sulk at home. They are, however, found out quickly and the rest of the film watches all the characters reacting to and living with this scandalous news.
Beverly Hills 90210 used to do storylines like this in a neat 48 minutes with high melodrama, but The Oranges takes 90 and it feels like an eternity. First time feature filmmaker Julian Farino (Entourage, How to Make it in America) directs with few chances and less style. If the film looks like a Lifetime movie, it's because it basically is. Writers Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss are also first-timers and their unoriginal premise plays out as expected.
Laurie, Meester, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat, and Adam Brody are all in this and it's easy to guess what the producers were thinking. Put talent in front of the camera and hope no one notices the direction or the script. Sometimes lightning strikes with a great enough cast, but not this time. Platt is especially wasted, as his pseudo-cuckolded father character has his balls cut off and forgets to say anything interesting the entire film. He's a "gadget dad," a simplistic character trait obviously trying to duplicate Platt's charisma on The Big C, which falls flat. The writing just isn't there.
Janney stands out (as she usually does) as Nina's (Meester) mother whose paranoia about her daughter in general leads to the discovery about the affair. Janney's reactions and incredulity are fun to watch and the film would've been smart to follow her character the entire time. How does a mother deal with an adult daughter who begins an affair with a family friend? That's a movie, and it would be an original one, at least.
The biggest problem with the film is Laurie's character David. The English star of House has yet to prove he can be a big-screen leading man and he's hugely pedestrian playing an American everyman. Plus, Laurie looks uncomfortable the entire film, like a little boy who just wet his pants, he knows he's done something wrong and just wants it to be over. Nina is a 22-year-old with model looks and confidence, and she falls for this guy? He's a middle-aged depression case with a bald spot, not exactly Ryan Gosling. Outside the realm of Hollywood, the notion is ludicrous.
Seeing Laurie and Meester interact is further proof of the movie's ineptitude. They have zero chemistry and the affair happens for no reason at all, seemingly out of Nina's boredom. David is her old best friend's (Shawkat) father who she's known her entire life but there's never a mention she carried a flame for him or had any interest in the past. Nina's just learned her fiancee cheated on her and is crushed, but she lazily wanders into David's pool house late one night where the old man conveniently hangs out becuase he "can't sleep," and he and his wife (Keener) are having problems. Poor Hugh Laurie, he's just too irresistable to beautiful young girls.
So the story is about two selfish people who destroy the lives of everyone around them because they're bored. Why would anyone care about these two assholes? The story gives us no reason. Even after they're found out, they callously carry on out in the open while everyone else cringes and tries to tolerate it like good suburbanites. In some cultures, you get stoned to death for shit like this. In Orange, New Jersey, it just ruins Christmas.
With characters of no redeeming qualities and no reason to fall in love, I was left wondering who I was supposed to be invested in. The correct answer is no one. There's no one to like in The Oranges, and no reason to see it.
See more photos of Alia Shawkat here: