Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Neighbors are great things. If you’re fortunate enough to live next to the right people you can make life-long friends. Your kids can grow up together, fostering their own long time friendships. Or not.
Meet the Wallings. David (Laurie) and Paige (Catherine Keener) are the proud parents of son, Toby (Adam Brody) and daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat). David does advertising for liquor companies and is an enthusiastic jogger. Next door you’ll find the Ostroffs. Terry (Oliver Platt) and Carol (Janney) and their 24 year old daughter Nina (Meester). Terry is big on purchasing anything highly recommended by Consumer Reports and, though he jogs with David, does it with a lot less enthusiasm. Of course, this is the suburbs, where things aren’t always what they seem and ANYTHING, even the improbable, is possible.
Set in West Orange, New Jersey (hence the title), “The Oranges” is a small film that benefits from a sharp script and a strong cast. Though the major plot twist is easy to see coming (Nina and David become a couple) the circumstances leading up to, and following, the revelation isn’t hammered over your head. Nor does the situation feel forced, as if to shock the viewer. Things happen, sometimes when you’re not expecting them to. Laurie, in his “House” voice, makes David extremely likable. So much so that you don’t really fault him for his decision. It helps that Keener makes Paige very unsympathetic. On the Ostroff side, Janney is perfect as the mother hen who wants her daughter to find Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Next Door. Meester, so good in last year’s “Country Strong” and a star of television’s “Gossip Girls,” plays Nina as a free spirited woman who isn’t concerned by what others think.
The screenplay, by first-time feature writers Jay Reiss and Ian Helfer, has plenty of small moments that fit easily together to form a full story. Though the film is being sold more as a comedy (it has its funny moments), like the recent “Hope Springs” there is a lot going on beneath the laughter.