The Oranges (15)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarNo StarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner06/12/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Engaging dysfunctional family comedy-drama with terrific performances from a superb ensemble cast, though it's not quite as edgy as it should have been.

What's it all about?
Directed by Julian Farino (Entourage), The Oranges is set in West Orange, New Jersey and stars Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener as unhappily married couple David and Paige Walling, whose misfit daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) still lives at home. The Wallings live next door to their best friends, Terry and Carol Ostroff (Oliver Platt and Allison Janney) and when their beautiful twenty-something daughter Nina (Leighton Meester) returns home after a bad break-up, she finds herself falling for David and the two begin an affair that threatens to break up both families.

The Good
The performances are excellent. Leighton Meester must have seemed like risky casting on paper, given her high profile screen persona as frosty Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl, but she's a revelation here, delivering a warm, sweet-natured and convincing performance that ensures her character remains sympathetic, even while embarking on an affair with her friend's father. Hugh Laurie, in turn, is charming and likeable as David and there's sufficient chemistry between the two to believably sell their relationship, not least because they both look genuinely happy in their scenes together.

There's also terrific comic support from the always-reliable Oliver Platt and Allison Janney (who share the film's best lines), while Keener is superb as Paige, even if her character is given rather short shrift by the script. On top of that, the dialogue is decent throughout and Farino finds some surprisingly emotional moments in unexpected places, most notably in the friendship between Platt and Laurie's characters.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that, having established a taboo-breaking romantic relationship that we actually root for, it then pulls back from going any further and ultimately lacks edge; for example, we never see Nina and David in bed together (a scene was shot, but got cut), which would have highlighted the awkwardness of the relationship in an interesting way. Similarly, the film also opts for a disappointingly conventional ending and fails to exploit any of the more interesting ideas thrown up by the script (such as Terry angrily suggesting to David that he should sleep with Vanessa in revenge, at which point you realise the rich comic possibilities of a relationship between Platt and Shawkat).

In addition, the device of having the film narrated by Vanessa doesn't really work, partly because her character isn't really privy to everything that goes on in the film and partly because the narration sets up expectations that Vanessa will be a main character and Shawkat (a hugely underrated comic actress) then ends up being regrettably side-lined for the majority of the film.

Worth seeing?
The Oranges is an entertaining comedy-drama that's worth seeing for the performances from its superb ensemble cast, though it's a shame the script doesn't quite deliver on the edginess of its potential.

Film Trailer

The Oranges (15)
Be the first to review The Oranges...
01 The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (tbc)

Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, ...

02 The Theory of Everything (tbc)

Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Emily Watson

03 Pride (15)

Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Imelda Sta...

04 What We Did on Our Holidays (12A)

David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Rosamund Pike, Anne...

05 The Guest (15)

Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Ethan Embry

Content updated: 02/09/2014 17:38

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Night Moves Film Review

Engaging and provocative, this is a fiercely introspective thriller from writer-director Kelly Reichardt, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films

Hot Tickets

Film 4 Summer ScreenFilm 4 Summer Screen

Taking over the big screen at Somerset House again for August 2014, the Film 4 Summer Screen series brings a variety of classics and brand new films to audiences in the capital.