My primary, and probably, sole motive of watching this movie might be similar to that of the 80% female demographic who choose to see it: Hugh Laurie. I could write some pretty cheesy stuff about him, being an old adorer-from-afar and all, but I would try to restrain myself from going all fangirling in explaining who he is to people who haven’t heard of him before. Most famous for playing Dr. House in the critically acclaimed House,M.D. series, he is a British actor known for his sharp wit, self-deprecating jokes, and flawless American accent. He is also an accomplished blues musician – with two successful albums under his belt – a best-selling author, and a successful comedian. That’s his biography condensed in two sentences for you. My short recount of this man’s life might not impress you enough, but you only need to pick up one of his many works to know why I am a fan.
In Laurie’s latest foray into the big screen, he plays the role of David, the other half of Paige from the Walling clan living in West Orange, New Jersey. The Wallings are best friends – a term questioned in its interpretation in this movie – with their neighbors from across the street, the Ostroff family. Both families are inseparable and happy as a group, though not so much when they are not together. That’s why they always try do everything communally to avoid dealing with their spouse on their own. Paige and David have a design graduate daughter named Vanessa – the narrator of the movie – who gets a job at a local furniture shop as she is too afraid to move to Manhattan and live her dream of becoming a real designer. Life is safe and dependable in the West Orange, resembling a cozy cocoon that Vanessa is too reluctant to leave. But the whole dynamic in the community shifts when Nina, the Ostroff’s daughter, goes home from her five-year leave after breaking up with her boyfriend. Cathy, the overbearing mom, sees the opportunity to merge with the Wallings as a real family, and tries to get Nina and Toby, Vanessa’s older brother, together. The plan backfires majorly. Instead falling for Toby, Nina falls for David, Toby’s father. And apparently, the feeling is mutual. Oh, the horror! Being separated but not officially divorced, David is torn between holding his family together and being with Nina. To be with Nina would mean committing the most cliched act a guy his age could possibly commit, but David finds himself to be happy for once in a long time.
The premise of this movie is very ordinary, and the movie doesn’t claim itself to be otherwise. There aren’t many surprises that the viewers wouldn’t see coming, nor complicated plots that will make our brain work more than usual. But this doesn’t mean that the movie is dumb; it is just simple. Telling a common occurrence in American’s suburban life using a slightly more animative and good looking ensemble. I think this movie works for me as a dramedy because of the stellar performance from the casts. Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development nails the role of the sullen, fed-up daughter of the Walling’s, Vanessa. Catherine Keener can’t play a better Paige with her dry humor. Hugh doesn’t stray much of his usual shy, quiet persona in portraying David, although I do miss his smart mouth. Leighton Meester is a great fit for Nina, a happy girl with a flirtatious and coy nature. The chemistry between the actors is very natural and fluid, with the prime example being the relationship between David and Nina. With such a huge age gap between them, Meester and Laurie are handed with a daunting task to portray the image of a couple in love. But they execute it well and make the pair look believable to me, if not perfect. (Trivia: Meester had worked with Laurie before, also in a romantic setting, as a guest star in House,M.D.). If there is more backstory on David and Nina’s history, I think the viewers would be much more satisfied with the way their relationship progresses in the movie. I know I will.
I recommend The Oranges to anybody who are in the mood of simple, smart comedy centering on family’s life. It is short enough to still be light but not so short as to be unsatisfying for the viewers. 7 out of 10.
P.S: Please disregard Imdb’s rating for this movie; I don’t think a 5.6 does it justice..