- James Mottram
- 4 December 2012
A pithy if not exactly groundbreaking suburban comedy, starring Hugh Laurie and Leighton Meester
In between concluding his stint on House and reinventing himself as a jazz musician, Hugh Laurie can be found in this modest US indie. A New Jersey-set tragi-comedy that treads the same ground as Sam Mendes’ American Beauty (without, thankfully, the cringe-worthy philosophising about plastic bags), Laurie plays David Walling, a well-off suburbanite married to Paige (Catherine Keener) and father to teenagers Toby (Adam Brody) and Vanessa (Alia Shawkat).
Living opposite the Wallings in the borough of West Orange are family friends, the Ostroffs – Terry and Cathy (Oliver Platt, Allison Janney) and their mildly wayward daughter Nina (Leighton Meester), who returns home for Thanksgiving after discovering that her slacker fiancé cheated on her. Rather than gravitate towards Toby, as her mother would like, Nina finds herself drawn towards Laurie’s character. A kiss in his den leads to a motel liaison – only for the pair to be caught by Cathy before anything happens.
Directed by British helmer Julian Farino (a veteran of Entourage), The Oranges’ subject matter may not exactly be groundbreaking – after all, The Graduate pretty much covered all bases forty-five years ago, in terms of generation gap romances. But the script by Ian Helfer and first-time writer Jay Reiss smartly skewers the age-old May-December theme, as we swiftly (and hilariously) witness the fall-out from David and Nina’s lust, as marriage and friendships are discarded in an instant.
Farino walks a high-wire here, never moralising about his characters’ actions, always ensuring the warm humour comes from the heart. If there’s a problem, it’s that the two mothers are rather underwritten; Janney’s meddlesome matriarch is a role she’s played before and better (in Juno for one) while Keener’s arc in the wake of the affair is rather unsatisfying. But with Laurie and Meester on credible form, The Oranges remains a juicy comic odyssey, pithy to its core.
General release from Fri 7 Dec.