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Review: 'The Oranges' Is Like a Bag of Apples

How do two families handle a marital affair involving a father and his best friend's daughter? With kettle corn, Christmas carols, and a whole bunch of shenanigans.

“Sex.  Betrayal.  Scandal.  Make yourself at home.”  That is the tag line on "The Oranges" film poster.  What it should read is, “Kiss.  Hug.  Makeup. If affairs were this easy, everyone would be having one.” 

I expected a serious, true-to-life indie about relationships and family. "The Oranges" is nothing more than a Hollywood comedy with sub-par acting and a story line laden with humor that completely overshadows the serious issues in the film.

The Wallings and Ostroffs have been living next door to one another for several years in suburban New Jersey on, wait for it, Orange Drive.  When 24-year-old daughter Nina Ostroff (Leighton Meester) returns home after a five-year absence, she sparks up a relationship with David Walling (Hugh Laurie), her father’s best friend.  It does not take long before they are found out and everyone, including the Walling’s daughter and Nina’s former best friend, Vanessa (Alia Shawkat), is forced to change their lives to accommodate the recent findings.

I left the film feeling like I was walking out of an Adam Sandler comedy. 

The characters are unoriginal and standard, especially Nina’s ex-boyfriend Ethan (Sam Rosen) who plays the hippie male that delivers the idiotic comic relief.  The script is filled with nothing but hi-jinks and slapstick comedy.  And there is absolutely no emotion behind any of the character's actions.  The most emotion I saw came at the end was when Paige Walling (Catherine Keener), David’s wife, takes her car and destroys all of David’s Christmas lawn decorations.  Her inanity and anger filled the screen.  Unfortunately, it ended shortly thereafter when the two families came together and opened gifts. 

The tone of the film is not serious; its lighthearted fun.  Why the film is rated R is beyond me.  The most sex the audience sees is between Terry (Oliver Platt) and Carol (Allison Janney) Ostroff near the end of the film and even then they are covered in a sheet.  Swear words are kept to a minimum, the only violence occurs in a comical cat fight between Nina and Vanessa, and drug use is limited to one hit of marijuana and casual, legal drinking.  The themes involved in the affair may be adult, but the way director Julian Farino handles them is not, making this a “safe for the whole family” type of film.

I read a review on "The Oranges" before watching the film. To my surprise, they raved about the cast.  I am not sure what cast critics were referring to, but it couldn’t have been the one for "The Oranges."  Maybe it is because I am not a "House" or "Gossip Girl" fan, but I found nothing appealing about any of the characters.  I don’t blame Laurie and Meester for displaying absolutely zero chemistry on scene, but they could have at least attempted to take their roles more serious.  I felt like they were both going to burst out laughing at any moment and Laurie constantly had a little smirk on his face.  Shawkat played the disgruntled daughter stock character, whom I had to keep reminding myself was not a teenager, and I knew very little about either wife.  What the audience gets is merely surface details, nothing deeper.

I do enjoy watching comedies, especially when I am in need of a reality break. "The Oranges" is not that break.  Despite all the laughing I did, I felt awkward about it during the entire film.  I caught myself looking around every time I laughed to see who else was laughing and if it was appropriate. The film flowed well and kept my interest, but it left me with nothing in the end and merely robbed me of my time.  "The Oranges" is just another film that takes a serious subject, strains it of all depth, and leaves you with the pulp.   

According to Box Office MoJo, "The Oranges" earned $180,000 thus far. 

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