The Oranges

Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 00:00

This unfortunate comedy appears to take place in the indie film fan’s version of suburban heaven. On one side of the street, Oliver Platt and Alison Janney tolerate each another. Across the road, Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener become increasingly estranged. One would not be surprised to find Patricia Clarkson delivering the mail and John Hawkes working in the local diner. What could go wrong? A reasonable amount, as it happens.

The Oranges kicks into fitful action when Laurie’s bored nice guy falls into a squalid sexual relationship with his neighbour’s 20-something daughter (Leighton Meester). Predictable mayhem ensues. Janney, who already has a tense relationship with the girl, embraces ballistic levels of fury. Platt suffers silently. Keener storms out and attempts to start a new life as a charity worker.

It hardly needs to be said that all the actors find something vaguely amusing to do with their respective characters. Hugh wears the look

of a man who stepped out for a smoothie and found himself stranded in the middle of a small war. Janney offers yet another compellingly horrid, uptight monster. Even the unheralded Meester manages to inject some humanity into a worryingly unbalanced role.

Sadly, the writers fail to expand the story beyond its premiseand the script seems to have its sexual politics all skew-whiff. Everybody is terribly down on poor Ms Meester – who is, after all, still young – and seems to regard Laurie as nothing worse than a silly old fool. Eventually, to expected applause, Leighton gets clobbered. Why is no one thumping Hugh Laurie?

Now there’s a phrase you never expected to read in broadsheet newspaper.