The Oranges Blu-ray Review: A Conventional Tale of Unconventional Romance

During the middle of the previous decade, my girlfriend at the time and I were hooked on three specific television series: House M.D., Arrested Development, and The OC. Well, the latter was more to appease her than anything. I can’t stress that enough, folks. Honestly. In fact, the only thing that enabled me to survive the yuppie haven that particular drama served up on a regular basis was Adam Brody’s character of Seth Cohen – who appealed to me since he was an awkward nerd. I can relate. Unsurprisingly enough to anyone who has ever met me, I also identify quite well with introverted outcasts who rub everyone the wrong way such as House M.D. – as played by the great Hugh Laurie – and the unequivocal “Screw you guys, I’m going home” attitude of a fictional personas like Maeby Fünke, who was brought to life in Arrested Development by actress Alia Shawkat.

Sure, there were better characters on Arrested Development to associate with, but at some point , we must have surely joked about what would happen if the cast of all three series were put in the same vehicle together. Now, though that particular relationship of mine ended several years ago, somebody somewhere must have somehow tuned into our joke, as the 2011 indie dramedy The Oranges features all three previously-mentioned performers as part of a suburban New Jersey family – a clan that is on the verge of becoming a dangerously dysfunctional one as we begin our tale into of unconventional romance.

Hugh Laurie and Oliver Platt (who gives the best delivery of the line “Smoothie?” ever recorded here, hands down) play a pair of friends who have lived across the street from each other for the better part of a quarter of a century. Truthfully, neither middle-aged husband/father is happy. David (Laurie) has been confined to sleeping in his man-cave at the behest of his perfectionist wife, Paige (Catherine Keener), who has simply grown tired of the dull day-to-day, year-to-year rut they have fallen into. Terry (Platt), on the other hand, has almost been tuned out of entirely by his tittle-tattle of a spouse, Cathy (Allison Janney). Brody and Shawkat are cast as Laurie and Keener’s children. Vanessa (Shawkat) has become stuck in a rut as well, living with her parents as she tries to work out a plan for her own life. Toby (Brody) – the eldest – is working his way up the SEC ladder, and is high on Cathy’s list of potential mates for her own wild child offspring.

It isn’t until that wild child in question – Nina (Leighton Meester) – arrives that those proverbial oscillating blades are struck by a significant amount of defecated properties. An accidental, isolated discussion between David and Nina results in some truly unusual sparks between the two despite the fact that David is an older married man, and Nina is his best friend’s daughter (interestingly enough, Meester once guest-starred in two episodes of House M.D. as a young lass with a crush on the antisocial genius). Needless to say, the minor incident results in everyone becoming very angry and confused. Surprisingly, however, the romance is genuine; just not traditional. Of course, this sort of thing happens in eccentric French comedies all the time, but to conservative viewers in the United States, this is some really weird shit hitting the fan.

Fortunately, the cast of The Oranges manage to pull off this quirky flick rather well. As a feller who is already beginning to see the I-could-have-swore-it-was-father-off-than-that horizon of middle-agedom – himself with a lousy track record in the love department – it’s always cute to see an older guy find happiness, no matter how bizarre it is. It’s the thought that counts, right? Unfortunately, those solid performances from the cast of The Oranges don’t entirely make up for it all. While I did enjoy it, the film has a feeling of over-polished polishing – if that makes any sense. While I know the romance between the unlikely protagonists is credible in this instance, it still doesn’t seem genuine from my viewpoint – and that is in no way attributable to the stars themselves. It simply seems to me that television director Julian Farino hadn’t fully emerged from his TV Director’s Chair in order to properly helm this feature.

Perhaps writers Jay Reiss and Ian Helfer just tried too hard. Or not hard enough. I did read that the ending of the film was rewritten shortly before filming began, so it’s possible that some magic was lost there. But then again, my discomfort with The Oranges may lie in my own imperfect personal life – so it’s entirely possible your experience with it might be a more pleasant one. That, or your friends and/or family will look at you and wonder if you have some deep dark demented secret to share with them. Who knows.

20th Century Fox brings us this sleeper title to Blu-ray as part of a BD/DVD/Digital Copy/UltraViolet Combo Pack in a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer that delivers the film’s skewed view of reality admirably. Colors aren’t overly bright here, as the movie is supposed to have that look of everyday life to it – and it succeeds. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is very similar in nature: it’s realistic enough that it doesn’t bombard you, though people looking for a mind-blowing home theater experience as far as the A/V aspects of this one will probably be disappointed. Sadly, the so-so movie only contains two lamentable EPK-style extras. It’s a shame, too, as I would have lovedto hear more about the making of this film and/or a cast commentary.

Oh, well, I guess I’ll have to call up that ex-girlfriend of mine and start joking around with her about that, too – just so it might someday come to life. Failing that, I’ll move into a neighborhood with hot college-aged chicks.

Yeah, I went there. Deal with it.

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Luigi Bastardo

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