Hugh Laurie steps into the framework of The Oranges as a dissatisfied husband, poking at his best friend’s daughter with definite interest. It’s awkward.
Remember It’s Complicated? An older couple become intertwined in a offbeat romantic fling? Well, The Oranges is sort of like that, only infinitely more uncomfortable. On one side of the street you have the Wallings, Laurie’s family, and on the other sit the Ostroff’s.
Both families have their individual concerns but remain close. They are a tight nit group who spend holidays together, yet when separated, are dealing with inner turmoil. The Ostroff’s daughter Nina (Leighton Meester) has taken to a life on the road, dating a man her parents have never met. Wallings have their daughter, a lost architect who has moved back home while she finds her way (whom the film is oddly framed around), and a marriage strung together with the thinnest of threads.
Nina breaks up with her would-be husband though, now stuck in a house with her stuffy, clingy parents. Through a series of arguments and weird timing, she seems to pick Hugh Laurie’s David out of spite. He chooses her too, almost vengefully against the wife whom he believes has ignored him.
Insert the awkward conversations, encounters, and steely eyed stares as the newly formed couple is discovered at a hotel. Those glancing looks come from the audience too. Are Laurie and Meester brave for taking on such an unsteady screen romance or is just inherently off-putting? Likely the latter.
To be clear, this is not only a set-up for comedic wit. There is an actual relationship forming, a visit to Atlantic City and holiday time spent together. They touch, they kiss, and the whole thing feels icky. Fiction or not, the material is happening, and it is impossible to remove yourself from the situation.
There needs to be closure, and Oranges sprints to a finish after its comedic high sees a scorned wife go berserk on Christmas Eve. Pathways cross and decisions are made, although it still leaves these characters with a cross section of their lives that will only send shivers, plus a need for therapy.
Oranges is too grounded to approach the topic so breezily. It acts like nothing is wrong via occasional wit, passing over the social implications and creating a concrete barrier to the subject matter, yet never climbing it. The film sees a need for dramatic flourishes and conflict, flushing the piece’s potential.
Captured digitally, the indie feature comes to Blu-ray with an all-around appealing visual facade, cleanly rendered without artifacts. Fox’s AVC encode is pristine, handling the 90-minute source material without bothersome intrusions. A moment of aliasing is pushed onto the roof of a car and most won’t even spot it. Banding is even less of a concern.
Clarity is enormous here. Exteriors are stunning in their vibrancy, and the detail in close, especially on certain plot-necessitated Christmas ornaments, allows the viewer to pick up on their material. Facial close-ups are less consistent although never unnatural. Knowledge of the digital origin is entirely due to the lack of film grain, not due to any usual association with the tech.
Naturally colored with cleanly focused flesh tones and handfuls of primaries to divvy out, Oranges does not take after its title in any aggressive manner. Reds and blues are hearty, and a contrast is more than worthy. Sagging black levels just miss their fullness, although maintain enough depth to warrant a passing grade.
The storyline will flashback early revealing a low grade, cell phone level quality video, a minute or of screen time and the only deviation from the intense sharpness. Resolution is prime here.
Pouring on the dialogue, Oranges will exhibit a smooth low-end when producing a soundtrack, the height of the aural experience here. A late moment of character aggression involving lawn vandalism in a car hardly does anything despite the opportunity to pass objects overhead. A slight firing of stereo work is as daring as the mix will become.
Elements mix nicely when working together, and dialogue will take on the space in which it is taking place. Boring, but undoubtedly accurate.
Opening Doors is one of two featurettes that serve as the bonuses, this six minute piece looking into the actors, their roles, and subject matter. Juicy Secrets is three minutes of an extended trailer at best.
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