** (out of four)
You’d think mid-life crises and marital woes were invented yesterday by the way they’re treated in the New Jersey-set “The Oranges,” which indicts suburban routine while indulging only in formula itself.
Flirtation becomes forbidden passion between 24-year-old Nina (Leighton Meester) and her dad's best friend David (Hugh Laurie). This creates a fault line within the families/neighbors that “Entourage” director Julian Farino depicts as overly zany, perhaps because writers Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss have written a comedy with few jokes and maybe two laughs.
David’s moody daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) narrates the film with voiceover that minimizes an already shortsighted script. Vanessa’s former friendship with Nina generates only a few obvious yelling matches. The return of Nina’s cheating ex (Sam Rosen) inevitably leads to him calling David “pops.” As David’s wife, Catherine Keener explores a far more superficial version of her role in “Please Give,” shouting, “It’s not about being happy, David!” in a film that trivializes love, recovery and the ends justifying the means.
The dangers of both procrastination and impulsive behavior always count as a worthwhile message. At least “American Beauty,” which hasn’t aged well, allowed a wicked downward spiral from turbulent emotions and incestuous social lives. In “The Oranges” the repression and release arrive like a drizzle.
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