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
A plethora of actors show how to make a dysfunctional family dramedy funny
"The Oranges" centers on two families, each with mom and dad and former teenage daughter (now a twenty-something daughter), living across the street from each other in West Orange, New Jersey. It's kind of like a dysfunctional family dramedy except the families really do function normal enough and well enough prior to the beginning of the plot. And also it's a comedy. It poses some fairly serious questions but presents them all in a light-hearted, humorous fashion.
Paige Walling (Catherine Keener) and David Walling (Hugh Laurie) still have their adult daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) living at home, unable to let go of some hostilities from her teenage years. Carol Ostroff (Allison Janney) and Terry Ostroff (Oliver Platt) are trying to control their daughter Nina (Leighton Meester) but she's off on the other side of the country still acting like a teenager. But after a perceived personal tragedy, Nina comes home. And then comes home Paige and David's successful son Toby (Adam Brody) who's in love with Nina.
Two individuals choose to commit, or almost commit, a morally repugnant act. The good thing is, everything is still funny. In the aftermath though, they decide that they're adults, and choose to question the line of morality. Not only is the audience not expecting that, and thus we're forced to start questioning, or stop judging, but the other characters definitely weren't prepared for it, and they start questioning the directions of their own lives. While of course keeping it funny.
Another interesting choice the film made was to make Vanessa (Shawkat) the narrator. She is not directly involved in the action, she's only involved in the repercussions, but she's also the type of character that we normally don't think about how she would be affected, but now we're forced to. The character that we would normally associate with in the aftermath is Paige (Keener) but here she puts herself on the sidelines.
The highlight of the film, of course, is the incredible cast. The reading of the credits goes something like this: Alia Shawkat oh, yeah, the girl from Arrested Development, she has some decent comedy skills; Leighton Meester a new Hollywood "it" girl, let's she what she's got; Hugh Laurie he's always fun and straight from a string of well-deserved Emmy nominations; Allison Janney awesome (!); Catherine Keener awesome (!); Oliver Platt really?! He's a comic genius, this is doubly awesome (!!); and Adam Brody well, now we've just topped off a dream come true.
The best news is that the cast completely delivers. Meester and Laurie are expected to carry the majority of the film, and both do it by playing characters that they've never really played before. Laurie pulls of sympathetic so well and Meester goes a little more subtle to be able to show us what her character is thinking and show us what her character wants people to see. Janney is her usual funny self, so is Brody, while Platt is again at top form delivering some hilariously subtle facial reactions and some comic gold physical comedy.
The least famous actor of all of them, Sam Rosen, threatens to steal the whole show as Ethan, Nina's hilariously sympathetic fiancé turned ex-fiancé turned super-apologetic-ex-fiancé. He's relegated to a pretty small role, otherwise the movie would have been about Ethan. And it's not supposed to be.
Now that the highlights are all uncovered, it's time for some warnings. The plot is exceedingly simple and we have to wait for each character to catch up to it before the next turn can proceed. For those that are completely invested in each character, this won't be a problem. For those that like fewer characters, this will be a problem. Also depending on where your moral center lies, you could have a conflict with the film's decidedly ambiguous morality. For all the lines the film attempted to cross they went for a much simpler, more dramatic ending, never crossing into the dark comedy territory. That might stop it from reaching more brilliant heights, but it also keeps "The Oranges" more consistently enjoyable.
Who Might Like This: People who like dysfunctional family dramedies; anybody looking for a comedy that questions some of society's morals; fans of anybody in the main cast.
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