Like Friends With Kids, which premiered alongside it at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, The Oranges sounds like something that should be kept at arm’s length: the story of a suburban father (Hugh Laurie) who has an affair with his neighbor’s daughter (Leighton Meester). But Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss’s script follows through on their yuckster premise with uncommon insight and dedication, without a shirk or a smirk.
As uncomfortable as Laurie and Meester’s relationship makes everyone else, and as much damage as it inevitably causes, it’s not a simple escape-hatch fling; Laurie may be done with his marriage, and Meester has just broken off her own engagement, but their May-December rebound turns out to be surprisingly durable. It’s left to others, including Laurie’s wife Alison Janney, kids Alia Shawkat and Adam Brody, and pal Oliver Platt, to reorient themselves, as they realize that what seemed like an unbelievable fluke may in fact be the new normal. It’s painful and funny at once, and though The Oranges doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it breathes life into a genre that often seems to be gasping for air.