(Comedy, R, 90 minutes)
For some people, nothing says holidays like turkey, stuffing and crazy family drama. In “The Oranges,” dysfunction is the main dish in the holiday-centered farce. The movie has some dramatic moments, which will make you think, but overall it will make you laugh.
The Walling and Ostroff families live across the street from each other on Orange Drive in suburban New Jersey. They are practically family, spending holidays with each other. David and Paige Walling (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keenner) are parents to Toby (Adam Brody) and Vanessa (Alia Shawkat). Terry and Cathy Ostroff (Oliver Platt and Allison Janney) are parents to Nina (Leighton Meester).
Vanessa and Nina were best friends until the latter became more interested in popularity, sex and drugs. Much to her perfectionist mother’s chagrin, Nina forgoes college and lives freely. She lets years go by without even coming home. Vanessa, a college graduate, has goals of designing furniture in Manhattan but works in a New Jersey store instead.
Nina breaks the news that she is engaged and won’t be home for Thanksgiving for the umpteenth year in a row. However, when she catches her fiance cheating on her at her birthday party, she quickly finds a flight home.
With everyone back at home, it seems as if balance is restored. Terry, a power-walking gadget junkie, shows off his latest find. Cathy is able to induldge in her controlling ways by attempting to make a love connection between Nina and Toby. Vanessa just sits back and watches, occasionally offering sarcasm, while pushing her parents’ frequent arguments in the back of her mind. However, an affair between the unhappily married David and the heartbroken Nina throws a wrench in the normalcy of the dysfunctional equilibrium everyone is used to.
There are a lot of characters in this film, but for some odd reason, Vanessa narrates it. I think that was intentional because everything about her is odd. Although some casting director pieced these fictional families together, her freckled face and wild, curly hair stick out like a sore thumb next to her tall, lean parents and brother. I questioned her purpose, but it becomes apparent by the film’s end.
The outlook of Paige and David’s marriage is bleak, but the union between Terry and Cathy is hilarious. Terry is comically clueless while Cathy’s obsessive-compulsive nature is hilarious.
Nina, on the other hand, is conniving, immature and irresponsible. The whole affair, including the more than 20-year age difference, is disturbing enough.
You’ll want David to knock some sense into her as only a parent should, but he looks past it as he falls in love with the 24-year-old dreamer. The fact that he still wears his wedding band, however, provides some insight into his poor, unsteady decision making.
However, comedy manages to rear its head in the midst of this chaos. From meltdowns to mending relationships, you will laugh your way through this movie. If you think it’s wrong to laugh through your pain, this movie will make you think differently. It encourages it.