Review: The Oranges
The celebrated US sitcom Arrested Development proved a useful movie career launch pad for Jason Bateman and Michael Cera. Alia Shawcat, who played George Michael's cousin in that series, perhaps thought landing the narrator's role in this suburban comedy drama with a prestigious cast was the vehicle to join them.
Her voiceover introduction outlines her existence in dull New Jersey suburbia, living with her parents (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener). They are inseparable, do-everything-together best friends with the neighbours, the Ostroffs (Oliver Platt and Alison Janney). She also complains about how she used to be best friends with the Ostroffs' daughter Nina (Leighton Meester) until she dumped her for some cooler friends at high school, made out with the boy she had a crush on and then went off to have the free-spirited globe-trotting life she dreamed of, leaving her stuck in The Oranges, New Jersey.
But, in a cruel irony, the film then commits the exact same betrayal on her. Nina returns, seduces her father, breaks up her family, breaks up the bond between the two families and steals the whole film away from her. Once the sexy and seductive Leighton Meester (from Gossip Girl on TV) shows up, the poor girl barely gets a look-in.
Not that I necessarily take issue with the film's judgement here. Whatever pulse this film has, she supplies. She comes across as a perkier, cheerier Kirsten Stewart or a brainier Alicia Silverstone.
It's hard to tell what the film is interested in. Neither comedy nor drama really takes its fancy. There are some funny lines but the situation and characters are way too simplistic and the way they are dealt with is more than a little thoughtless.
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Laurie and Keener's marriage is tossed away like it was nothing at all. Platt's character is obsessed with gadgets and getting the latest thing – it is as if he is a comment on the superficiality of parodying the superficiality of a consumer lifestyle.
You can tell that men wrote this film. All the women are cold, heartless and controlling or hot, heartless and home- wreckers. The only relationship it has any concern for is the friendship between Laurie and Platt which is threatened by Laurie's affair – and then only because the nasty women force them to part.
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THE ORANGES (12A)
Director: Julian Farino
Starring: Hugh Laurie, Leighton Meester, Oliver Platt, Alison Janney, Catherine Keener and Alia Shawkat
Length: 90 mins