As dull and vapid as the eponymous locale (actually W. Orange, New Jersey), The Oranges is a dysfunctional suburban comedy/drama set during the holiday season that doesn't treat its characters (and potential audience for that matter) with much respect.
Starring a promising cast that includes Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney and Catherine Keener as longtime very friendly neighbors - Platt and Janney as Terry and Cathy Walling and Laurie and Keener as David and Paige Ostroff. Voice-over narration is provided by the Ostroff's bitter pot-smoking daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat of last year's appealing Cedar Rapids).
In a less serious realized script by Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss where the Ostroff's daughter, a perky, pretty Leighton Meester as daughter Nina Walling (who's been away at college for five years without returning home) now does so and stirs things up by coming on to David (more than twice her age). During her childhood, Nina had been close to Vanessa until high school, drawn into a different crowd; the Wallings had wished she met their desire of ending up with the Ostroffs' overachieving son Toby (Adam Brody). But, she's been with a ne'er do well in Ethan (Sam Rosen) who's left Nina a wreck on her birthday after bed-hopping with one of the guests.
So, the storyline of havoc occurring when the secret rendezvous gets around and a repentant Ethan trying to reclaim Nina's affections doesn't make for a spry, colorful look at infidelity that hardly paints a picture that might provide viewers some cheer even with the accompanying Xmas offerings.
Yes, Terry is into the latest nifty electronics and Paige works hard on getting her carolers ready for their performance, but nary anything offered up by the writers allow the characters to be somewhat empathetic. The ambiguity resonates most through David as Laurie seems adrift (unlike his acerbic, cynical House character). Janney and Meester can't muster up much besides their specific traits (Cathy is really nosy) and Shawkat can't heat things up like Rapids with her narrating duties. Rosen and Brody fare even worse.
Consequently, the uninspired direction by Britain's Julian Farino (known for his small-screen work) keeps the Garden State a series of bland images wildly intensified during Paige's rage towards David when it comes to his well-arranged outdoor decorations. The Oranges could have been sharper and less ill-advised different hands to relate more of a caustically feature-length frolic into complex relationships.