Unsatisfied, boring and routine aren’t typical characteristics of a Holiday film; that is because Julian Farino’s newest film The Oranges is not your typical Holiday film. Unlike other films this one only uses Thanksgiving and Christmas as a backdrop to tell a more realistic story. The Holidays aren’t always that “magical time of year” sometimes they suck and we have to deal with it accordingly.
Hugh Laurie (House) and Oliver Platt (Bored to Death, Love & Other Drugs) play David Walling and Terry Ostroff. David and Terry have been best friends/neighbors for a long time and their families spend a lot of time with each other. For two families living in the New Jersey suburbs things could not seem any better. Not much time passes before we can see that these two families are just running through the motions. Terry has nothing to live for other than showing off his newly purchased gadgets. His wife Carol played by Allison Janney (The Help, The West Wing) pretends to care about what’s going on around her but she’s just fooling herself into thinking she has a life. Terry’s wife Paige played by Catherine Keener (The 40 Year old Virgin, Death to Smoochy), has one thing that she clings to…. Her Christmas Carolers, which she begins prepping for in August. Terry seems to be the only “normal” one among the bunch even though his nights are mostly spent in his man cave watching Korean basketball.
Both families have children too. The Walling’s have two children: Vanessa played by Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) spends most of her time working on her furniture portfolio in hopes to make it big in New York; except she’s been holding herself back from going for it. Her brother Toby played Adam Brody (Scream 4, The O.C) has his own life, constantly traveling for work, he visits every once and a while. The Ostroff’s have a daughter Nina played by Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl), she is more of a free spirit and hasn’t been home in five years. On her birthday Nina catches her fiancée cheating on her; she decides to go back home, where things are simpler… or so she thought.
Since coming home it seems Nina has more of a connection with David than she does with her parents. While in Terry’s man cave Nina tries to chit chat and after some awkward silence David and Nina kiss followed by an abrupt “Oh Fuck!” from David. David recognizes his mistake and the next night while driving with Nina tries to apologize which only ends with the two making out at a streetlight. Their secret isn’t hidden for long as Carol is suspicious of her daughter and follows her to a motel where she finds out everything… then appropriately begins to vomit in the bushes.
Both families have no idea what to do or think to say the least. What was once a simple, care free life is no more. Paige moves out and into a bed & breakfast where she books every room to try and get back at David. Vanessa’s whole life is flipped upside down and she has no idea what to do. Nina’s parents can’t look at her and David & Terry’s friendship has completely disintegrated. Merry Christmas Everyone!!!
This film doesn’t glorify cheating on your spouse it just recognizes that life is complicated. We may become too comfortable in our situations and even though we may not like it, we endure it because that is what is considered normal or other ways safe. Farino handles the material with ease because this film could have easily went into darker territory but with the humor it balances out quite nicely. The entire cast is on point and there wasn’t a weak performance in the bunch. Laurie and Platt worked great together as friends and had a fun, genuine chemistry. The relationships between the couples and their children were so natural that the viewers can fall right into this world and not feel uncomfortable. Keener and Janney were phenomenal as well and the scenes with their respective husbands are hysterical.
The song “Beauty in the Breakdown” by The Scene Aesthetic seems to fit this film perfectly. Nina and David’s relationship plays out as expected but it is the events that surround them that are interesting. The film’s theme is centered on being happy with the life you are living Without Nina’s arrival these two families would have been running through the same motions forever but with her return she also brought much needed change.
2.5 out of 5