Monday, May 11, 2015

The Oranges

The Oranges; comedy, USA, 2011; D: Julian Farino, S: Leighton Meester, Hugh Laurie, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat, Oliver Platt, Catherine Keener

Two families live in West Orange, New Jersey, and are best friends: David loves jogging with neighbor Terry, and their wives Paige and Cathy get along as well. All seems fine, until Terry and Cathy's rebellious daughter Nina shows up, who does not want to start a relationship with the successful lad Toby - but instead falls in love with his dad, David. Shocked by their age difference and the fact that David is married, this causes quite a commotion in the neighborhood. Nina's best friend, Vanessa, does not even want to talk to her anymore. Nina moves in with David, yet the rumors exacerbate their relationship. In the end, Nina leaves the city and decides to live alone for a while, whereas David returns to jogging with Terry.

This comedy collects praise for being one of the few to profit by giving the main lead role to brilliant (and underused) actor Hugh Laurie, who  became a legend with "House, MD", yet loses power because - unlike numerous other romance films involving a younger girl falling in love with an older man - it did not exploit all its emotional, comical or spiritual potential to the fullest, delivering a lukewarm version of it. The storyline is surprisingly flat. It rarely leads to some point. We do not get why Nina and David suddenly kiss on the couch - it comes out of the blue, without any previous chemistry between them, or hints that would build up the mood. That is not crucial, of course. Unfortunately, the film does not compensate after that, either, since their romantic relationship is strangely bland and lifeless. The only time the chemistry between them is truly ignited is in the sequence where they are sitting at a table in a bar, rationalizing why they should not continue, until Nina suddenly tells to David: "If you could lean across this table right now, and kiss me...And no-one would say it was wrong...And there were no rules... Would you do it?" He replies with: "I would", and she just says: "There are no rules." The script needed more of such moments, since more humor, inspiration, emotion and power would have been welcomed. The last 30 minutes seem like an empty walk, and the sparse script cannot carry the film into a better grade. Still, a few good jokes (Nina commenting how her mother sent her their "cat's letters" while she was away), the elegant mood and a great cast manage to sustain a good film, yet a truly excellent version of it is in some other film, it seems.


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