The Ostroff and Walling families have been neighbours and friends for years. David (Hugh Laurie) and Terry (Oliver Platt) jog together three times a week, and their daughters were friends right through school. This friendship is put to the test, however, when David begins an affair with Terry’s twenty-something daughter Nina (Leighton Meester).
The cast of The Oranges is wonderful. The Walling family is made up of Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Alia Shawkat and Adam Brody. The Ostroffs are comprised of Oliver Platt, Allison Janney and Leighton Meester. Not bad right? It is just a shame that this stellar cast are not given a little more to work with.
Hugh Laurie and Leighton Meester are the couple at the centre of the story and, once David and Nina get together, all of their dramatic motion simply stops. Their affair is clandestine for about 4 seconds, and the rest of the film is spent trying to get everyone to be OK again. The only thing that can really be said about the cast is that they are fine; Janney and Shawkat get some fantastic throwaway lines every now and again, but it is really the lack of chemistry between Laurie and Meester that lets the film down. There is no spark between them and, once they settle into their relationship, it edges toward that of father and daughter, with some uncomfortable kissing and awkward feigned sweetness. Ugh.
It seems as though screenwriters Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss saw American Beauty over and over again, and decided to write a film about what might have happened if Angela Hayes and Lester Burnham had got together. Seriously. Allison Janney as Carol is errily reminiscent of Annette Bening as Carolyn Burnham and while Hugh Laurie is not quite as lifeless as Lester Burnham at the start of the film, he is not far off. The whole point of American Beauty was that Lester and Angela never got together and remember how their relationship suddenly changed when Angela told Lester she was a virgin? Well that happens in The Oranges as well, but we are supposed to believe that this creepily inappropriate couple – whose relationship has drifted from lovers, almost to parent and child – are still sleeping together.
Director Julian Farino does what he can, but he is fighting a battle he can’t hope to win; there is no chemistry between the lead couple, the story is rather beige and it all wraps up a little too neatly. There are some moments of charm and greatness, but these are so few and far between that it is hard to remember why we are watching this film in the first place.
The Oranges is a film that possibly looks good on paper, but the impressive cast are not given time to shine and the story wraps up a little too quickly and neatly for it to feel as though it is real life. The Oranges has its moments, but overall, this is a bland and beige film. Shame; I like Hugh Laurie, and this is a disappointing follow up to his brilliant turn in House.