I’m always sceptical when Hugh Laurie puts on an American accent, but in The Oranges, it is his total lack of chemistry with his co-stars, central to the plot, that is more concerning. Laurie plays David, a middle-aged husband and father in suburban New Jersey, who begins an affair with the daughter of his best friend (who’s also his neighbour).
The film is narrated by his own daughter, Vanessa (Alia Shawkat), who used to be her father’s new girlfriend’s best friend. Confusing, and sort of like a modern Romeo and Juliet, the plot has great potential as it sees both families negotiate this unusual situation over the festive period. However, the scenes between David and Nina (Leighton Meester) are just not believable enough, and it is equally hard to understand the depth of David’s friendship with her dad, played by Oliver Platt.
The film bills itself as a romantic comedy, but was light on laughs, although this isn’t necessarily a problem, because it might work as a more serious piece. What sets the film apart from other films about cheating was that the affair which essentially leads to the unravelling of both friendships and relationships is not given much airtime; it is the effects of the betrayal on each individual which forms the basis of the film.
David’s wife, Paige, is the hardest hit by the affair, and one scene in which she crashes into her husband’s garden Christmas decorations, would, in another film, be amusing. Unfortunately, in this, the humour is lost. The film’s ending is abrupt, although it does allow those who managed to get emotionally invested in the characters to see that everyone is fine in the end; ultimately a Christmassy end to a film which otherwise defies most of the rules of festive movies. Not an atrocious film, but probably not one for those who only want to surround themselves in a warm, Christmas bubble.