Old Hugh Laurie ditches his wife to have an affair with young Leighton Meester in this glossy and underwhelming suburban satire.
Dumping a middleweight, taboo-busting comedy in an all-too-familiar picket-fenced suburb, Julian Farino's The Oranges charts the protracted fall-out between two friendly families when a romantic affair between one of each of their number causes major ructions. The controversial pairing involves lackadaisical patriarch of the Walling clan, David (Hugh Laurie), and Nina (Leighton Meester) the impulsive party-girl youngest of the Ostroffs who live directly over the way.
Flinging verbal slings and arrows from the confines of their plush mini-mansions, Allison Janney's Carol and Oliver Platt's Terry can't quite fathom that their old pal David has chosen to casually discard his wife, Paige (Catherine Keener), so he can roll in the hay with their cherubic daughter. The relationship is entirely legal (as we're constantly assured), and the film sets out to explore the ethical dilemmas that come with instigating this kind of cross-generational bond.
Todd Solondz this ain't. The ensuing mildly humorous bickering plays out over 90 social norm-baiting minutes as David and Nina try to work out how their lusty cavorting could ever become part of the status quo. It's admirably methodical in its concerns, as priggish Carol starts with traditional hair-pulling and door-slamming and moves on to bellowing about the idea of David having old-man sex with her pride and joy.
But The Oranges is all set-up and no pay-off, as Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss's screenplay peaks early, goes through a series of regulation motifs, chalks it all up as a mid-life crisis and then brings in a new character to help tie everything off.
Weak dialogue means that there's an awkward interplay between the issues and the zingers, and even then it's never quite insightful or funny enough to warrant the presence of this admittedly stellar comic cast. Plus, Farino's direction is close to appalling, as the story plays out in a series of bland medium shots with requisite twee plinking and plonking present and correct on the soundtrack.
There's also the sense that the female characters are the rolling-pin waving concerned ones, while the men are either louche and liberal or fumbling and effete, and – like the film as a whole – everything is just too damn cosy.
Will Hugh Laurie make a big-screen breakout after the renegade doctoring of House?
Hmm, not really. Although a better screenplay and a better director would've helped him out.
A tricky social conundrum is boiled down, lightly prodded and then forgotten by the roadside. Shame.