I have to admit, I was a little gun-shy after my last Indie encounter with Liberal Arts. I saw this film in the store and I flirted with it a little, circled it for awhile like a shark ready to strike and finally gave in to my raging daddy issues a few days later and bought the film sight-unseen. What can I say? The eternal optimist in my head had the cynical bitch who usually runs the show in a choke hold long enough for me to buy The Oranges.
Life is messy. And unpredictable. And unfair. And worth every fucking minute of it. It’s easy to accept the direction your life takes and even easier to resign yourself to a future where excitement and intrigue take a backseat to the warmth and safety of the predictable. That’s some esoteric shit right there, y’all. Give me a beer and a cheatin’ ex-boyfriend and I’m one pickup truck away from turning straight country. But I digress.
The Oranges follows two families of lifelong friends, the Walling’s and the Ostroff’s, as they approach the holidays in typical suburban fashion before shit goes awry in a dramatic debacle of epic proportions. Long-lost daughter Nina Ostroff returns home after her world, and longtime relationship, implodes and immediately falls into an affair with her father’s best friend. The film chronicles the change that happens in the lives of everyone involved. Filled with the awkward, the painful, the amusing and the unexpected, The Oranges will keep you guessing (right up until the end) more than The Lohan’s sexual orientation.
There is a depth and clarity to The Oranges that allows you to be drawn into the world of the Ostroff’s and the Walling’s rather quickly (and gloss over many of the bumps that pop up along the way). Hugh Laurie has never let me down; not as Dr. House and not as David Walling. While at times morose and slightly befuddled, Laurie manages to make David both believable and relatable. It’s refreshing to actually give a shit about the characters in a film. The rest of the cast deliver solid performances that anchor and center around the two leads admirably. But where The Oranges really shines is in the awkward, and at times incredibly painful, realism.
The chemistry between David and Nina is effortlessly charming and simultaneously supremely awkward; showcasing the authenticity that so often plagues May/December romances. The Oranges takes that and cranks the dial all the way up to eleven by throwing in family dynamics and drama worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy… Or at least an episode of Real Housewives. Watching David and Nina’s relationship blossom from sheer escapism, to possibly something more, kept me wholly engaged in the film and events playing out on-screen. Also worthy of mention are a couple of unsung gems, cinematic afterthoughts who manage to steal focus whenever they appear; Maya and Henry. Vanessa’s furniture store co-workers inject much need levity every time The Oranges starts getting weighed down by all the angst and pathos flying around.
The plot fell into place a little too easily and the stars aligned (or misaligned) for the characters almost too pat and perfectly to say that this was a truly original experience. Though somewhat formulaic, The Oranges was saved by a stellar cast taking the material they were given and transforming it into a well-rounded effort that managed to entertain and please (while leaving you with more to think about after the film than what you sat down with).
It’s never too late to come-of-age and watching The Oranges may not satisfy if you’re looking for a traditional happy ending, though you’ll definitely enjoy the ride regardless.
Take a Drink: anytime you’re treated to a monologue from Morgan Freeman’s whiter, more vagina-y counterpart in narration, Vanessa.
Take a Drink: whenever Thanksgiving and/or Christmas is mentioned.
Do a Shot: anytime you catch the carolers onscreen.
Take a Drink: for every new gadget.
Bonus Shot: whenever the gadgets don’t work.
For The Ladies: take a drink whenever you catch a glimpse of David’s bald spot and think “Enh, I’d still tap that”.
Shotgun a Beer: for the death of Frosty and other yuletide-related ornamentation.