MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Alia Shawkat as VANESSA
Hugh Laurie as DAVID
Oliver Platt as TERRY
Catherine Keener as PAIGE
Leighton Meester as NINA
Adam Brody as TOBY
Sam Rosen as ETHAN
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Julian Farino
BY KEVIN CARR
“The Oranges” is one of those independent films that boasts and impressive cast. With veterans like Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt and Allison Janney, “The Oranges” balances the talent with younger folks like Leighton Meester, Adam Brody and Alia Shawkat. The elder cast members outshine the younger ones, who tend to play stock roles without much stretching, but they’re still very appropriate for their characters.
It’s the cast that carries a film like this, offering a strong level of acting gravitas to support a bitingly cynical script about the tawdry happenings in a suburb. Even when the story lags and the plot starts to amble about, the charming people on the screen make it watchable.
“The Oranges” tells the story of two neighboring families in a well-to-do suburb of New Jersey. The daughters of the two families, Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) and Nina (Leighton Meester), are the typical once-best-friends who grew apart in their social circles in high school. Now college aged and trying to find their own ways in life, both families’ lives are thrown into turmoil when Nina starts an affair with Vanessa’s father (Hugh Laurie), who happens to be best friends with her own dad (Oliver Platt).
This is one of those films that puts surface-nice characters in a box of tense situations, shakes it vigorously and watches the hilarity ensue. The question is whether there is enough hilarity to sustain the feature-length running time. For the most part, there is, and it’s refreshingly downplayed throughout much of the movie (save a climactic moment that is required for many in a film like this).
“The Oranges” isn’t a perfect script, and it does struggle to hold itself together in second act, but it’s an honest attempt at realistic behavior of its characters. It’s an examination of the fact that just because someone has released adult age doesn’t mean they’re going to act like an adult.
Particularly impressive is the ability for the film to float a scandalous affair between the characters of Meester and Laurie without making the older man look too much like a perverted lecher. There’s no sense that he’s manipulating the situation any more than he would in an age-appropriate relationship. Similarly, his wife (Catherine Keener) is neither painted as the frigid prude nor the raging bitch. Instead, it shows a realistic scenario of a long-term relationship that has cooled off – very much under their noses – to the point of needing a spark.
Normally, I’d find the rather soft delivery of the movie to be a negative aspect, but after seeing too many films following the “Bridesmaids” over-the-top delivery, it’s nice to see a movie that grounds itself and actually tries to offer something a little more real.
It’s not my normal cup of tea, but with a strong cast and a decent flow of story, I found myself appreciating “The Oranges” more than I would have expected.
The Blu-ray comes with a DVD of the film, along with Digital Copy access. Bonus materials include two featurettes: “Opening Doors: Inside The Oranges” and “Juicy Secrets: Behind the Scenes of The Oranges.”