The Oranges Causes Blue Balls for Not Showing Leighton Meester & Hugh Laurie Forming the Beast With Two Backs After Dinner at Sazerac"/>
The Dinner: Oysters on the half-shell, Idaho catfish, and a precise amount of sazeracs (just enough to make you vigorously randy, yet not so many to incite a case of whiskey dick) at Sazerac in Downtown Seattle
The Screenplate: The Oranges is like Smart People and The Family Stone, in that it's a generally enjoyable movie that you wish were a whole lot better because the cast is so deft and likeable. But what The Oranges has that these films don't is a May-December romance between Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester and House's Hugh Laurie, two of the best-looking entertainers on earth. However, in an apt parallel to the film at large, they're shown making out, but never climaxing.
Boneriffic as it would be to see Meester and Laurie form the beast with two backs, the absence of such libidinous intensity is genuinely problematic from a dramatic standpoint, as you never quite believe they could end up together long-term. Meester plays the daughter of Laurie's across-the-street neighbor and best friend (Oliver Platt). Up until high school, she was the best friend of Laurie's daughter (Alia Shawkat). Once there, however, Meester fell in with the popular crowd while Shawkat, the ever-enjoyable Maeby from Arrested Development fame who's managed her career far better than Michael Cera, was relegated to four years of dorkdom. The girls' relationship was further exacerbated when Shawkat found Meester frenching a boy whom the former had had a longstanding crush on. (The OC's Adam Brody, whose character is named Tobias, and The West Wing's Allison Janney are also in The Oranges; it's like a television set exploded in the casting room.)
When the film opens, Shawkat and Meester are both 24, and saddled with very different forms of arrested development. Shawkat, an aspiring interior designer, can't work up the nerve to leave her parents' house in suburban New Jersey for Manhattan, and Meester, seemingly settled in San Francisco after frivolously traveling the world, has returned home after catching her new fiance in a state of undress with a lissome blonde. While Meester's mom (Janney) is intent on fixing her up with Laurie's successful son (Brody), a semi-drunk liaison in Laurie's pool house flowers into a full-blown affair, which predictably throws everyone's lives into upheaval.
Laurie and Meester have an easy chemistry, each capably playing against their small-screen alpha-types (Meester can act circles around her more tabloid-friendly GG cohort, Blake Lively). But they aren't permitted to express enough passion to convince the audience that they're all in with one another. Laurie's stuck in a listless marriage with Catherine Keener; his cock should be ripping through his jeans at the prospect of bedding Meester. Had The Oranges had the balls to take itself--and this relationship--more seriously, it could have transcended the suburban cliches (Janney and Keener, both phenomenal actresses, are basically wasted) which riddle its script.
During a playful montage meant to establish that Laurie and Meester's pool house lip-lock has evolved into something more serious, the pair is shown frolicking on the beach and in the casinos of Atlantic City, where, as Laurie explains, "New Jersey goes to hide." The problem is, if everyone knows that's where everyone hides, then you're not really hiding from anyone, as evidenced by the duo getting busted by one of Laurie's co-workers while sharing an intimate dinner. Had they been smarter about it, they'd have booked a room and had dinner at a hotel near Laurie's office, where he could have played off the rendezvous as catching up with an old friend or new business associate over dinner. In Atlantic City, it's too obvious he's whisked Meester away.
In Seattle, the equivalent would be if Laurie were to take Meester to Ocean Shores, which might actually work since Oregon's coastal charms have relegated Washington's shoreline to the dollar bin. But for a surefire clandestine meetup, he should take her to Sazerac, Hotel Monaco's restaurant. Here, they would enjoy oysters (in lieu of Viagra) and enough of the bar's eponymous cocktails to end up boning on the bathroom counter back in the room, because the bed's too far from the door. In a gutsier film, audiences would bear witness to such passion, and lust would conquer all. But, alas, The Oranges isn't that movie. Where's Lee Daniels when you need him?