Film & TV

Review – The Oranges

You can get used to anything given enough time, we’re told, but perhaps some things are just too difficult to get your head around. A neighbour stealing your husband, your best friend banging your daughter, catching your daughter slinking off to a motel for a salacious encounter, or all three combined in to one sordid mess in a New Jersey suburb. The Oranges presents just such an illicit affair, and suggests that although you may never quite get used to the situation, you can get pretty close.

The eponymous Oranges are a group of citizens of the clean-cut West Orange, a place where corporate ladder climbing is expected, children going to university is assumed and a barbeque season worthy of the name exists. The Oranges begins with narration from a slightly atypical “Orange”, Vanessa Walling. While Vanessa is waiting for her life plan to come to fruition she spends her Saturday nights in the company of her parents, David (Hugh Laurie) and Paige (Catherine Keener) Walling, and their best friends from across the street, Terry (Oliver Platt) and Carol (Alison Janney) Ostroff.

The story starts when, Nina, the only child of the Ostroffs returns home just in time for Thanksgiving after what can be best described as a five year holiday. At this point, the oddly likeable Vanessa takes a back seat to the more attractive, and frankly more exciting, Nina, just as she has done since they were childhood best friends. The young Miss Ostroff, a “sabotager,” then begins to upset the status quo of the perfectly veneered group by doing the one thing certain to upend almost every relationship between the members of the contented foursome, deciding to seduce the elder David.

The classic story of an older man falling for an attractive young woman is presented quite originally by managing to avoid depicting the man as lecherous and manipulative, and by preventing the woman as coming across as money-grabbing or naive. Towards the middle of The Oranges, during scenes of abandon and carefree fun, there is genuine chemistry on screen between the two lovers and the relationship begins to feel like the only real one in the film. Thankfully, it also manages to keeps a safe distance from a cloying message of ‘love will conquer all’, which would be woefully inappropriate given the trauma inflicted on so many people’s lives.

Most rom-coms manage to satisfy the ‘rom’ half of their description to a reasonable degree even if it essentially boils down to an attractive man kissing an equally attractive woman in a generic romantic setting. Few however, manage to be truly funny. Unfortunately, The Oranges falls just shy of managing to achieve this. Despite having a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments, some of the jokes are recycled just a little too often and the cast feels underutilised, particularly Adam Brody as the older brother of Vanessa, who isn’t given enough screen time and Allison Janney, as Carol Ostroff. The acting on the whole though is of a high standard.

While not a world changing movie, it’s perfectly adequate and one of the handful of rom-coms I’ve actually enjoyed in the past few years.

Michael Wood

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