The enduring friendship between the Walling and Ostroff families is tested when Nina, the prodigal Ostroff daughter, returns home for the holidays after a five-year absence and enters into an affair with David, head of the Walling family.
In conservative West Orange, New Jersey, the Ostroff and Walling families are very close. David Walling and Terry Ostroff are inseparable best friends and run together everyday. David has problems with his wife, Paige. He frequently sleeps alone in his office. Their daughter, Vanessa, is frustrated because she has not succeeded in her career as a designer. Their son, Toby, is moving to China on a temporary assignment. Terry's wife, Cathy, ignores him. Their daughter Nina moved to San Francisco five years ago. Near Thanksgiving, Nina's boyfriend Ethan betrays her at his birthday party and Nina returns to her parents house. Nina argues with her mother and draws closer to David. Soon they have an affair and fall in love, turning the lives of the people close to them upside-down. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
So a guy whose marriage is on the rocks gets together with a girl who has just broken up with her fiancée after she catches him cheating. Yawn? Oh, wait, did I forget to mention that the guy David (Hugh Laurie) is twice as old as the girl Nina (Leighton Meester), who happens to be the daughter of David's best friend Terry (Oliver Platt), and that the two families live across the street from each other? And it gets better: David's daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat ) used to be best friends with Nina, and his son Toby (Adam Brodie) is romantically interested in Nina.
Now you have the premise of "The Oranges". But is this just another movie about naughty May-December relationships (of which the best-in-class is undoubtedly "The Graduate")? Not really. The relationship itself is basically a given. It happens quickly at the beginning of the movie, and is almost immediately discovered by Nina's meddling mother (Allison Janney). But rather than ending with this discovery, the film really begins here, exploring the conflicted views of society (or at least of American society) toward such relationships through the lens of the tragicomic reactions of the two families and a few friends. These reactions, which range from awkward to furious, form the heart of the warm, funny, and occasionally touching screenplay by Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss.
Some viewers may be dismayed by the moral neutrality of the film. But since when did an intimate relationship between consenting adults, one of whom happens to be unhappily married, require the Hollywood plot line to issue a strong moral condemnation? In general, not since the 1950's, but should there be an exception in this case? What about the May- December thing? And the other lives that were changed -- were they changed for better or worse?
Whatever you think about all the questions it raises, I hope you appreciate the spot-on performances by the entire cast, and that you find The Oranges to be as enjoyable and thought-provoking as I did.
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