Fruit of the gloom

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

THE OR­ANGES ★★

Di­rected by Ju­lian Farino. Star­ring Hugh Lau­rie, Cather­ine Keener, Oliver Platt, Al­li­son Jan­ney, Alia Shawkat, Leighton Meester

16 cert, lim­ited re­lease, 90 min 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.

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