Film Review: The Oranges (ATO Pictures; 2012)

BY MATTHEW LAW

It really is painfully annoying when the likes of Allison Janney and Hugh Laurie, two actors who could pretty much be in any film they desired, end up in a production as average as The Oranges.

The film tells the story of the Walling and Ostroff families, who are neighbours and best friends living on Orange Drive in New Jersey. Their happy lives are soon turned upside down when Nina Ostroff (Leighton Meester) returns to the community and begins a liaison with neighbour David Walling (Laurie).

When you hear this storyline it sounds like a heartbreaking drama. A film filled with betrayal, that will see families torn apart and friendships broken. Well, that is probably the route this production should have gone down, because the light-hearted comedic elements of it that persist throughout do not fit at all with the gravity of the situation at the core of the story. A man is beginning a romantic relationship with his best friends daughter, and the characters could seemingly not be more uncaring or neutral about the situation at hand.

Director Julian Farino, an established television director in the U.S.A., has not been able to shake off the influence television productions have had on him, as The Oranges just feels like the pilot for a very long, and pretty mundane, sitcom. The screenplay is the main reason for this. It is frighteningly dull, convoluted, and haphazard. It has some humorous moments in it, but even these are only funny due to the actors performances of them. The entire story is highly anticlimactic, and by the end of the film one really is left pondering what they have just watched. The acting, however, is brilliant, truly fantastic. Laurie, Janney, and Oliver Platt provide the standout performances that really do become some of the only likeable aspects of this picture. They are the only substance. It is their performances that give the backbone to this production, as the script gives you nothing.

The problem with The Oranges is that it is relatively pointless. When watching it, it is hard to escape thinking that the writers (Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss) wanted this to be a television show of some sort, and in shortening it to make it a film, have truly ruined any charm it may have had. But hey, that is merely speculation. What is not speculation though is the fact that The Oranges could have been a very moving and enjoyable picture if it wasn't so confused and, its purpose, so ambiguous.

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