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Review: Welcome Home (The Oranges)

The Wallings (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener) and Ostroffs (Oliver Platt and Allison Janney) have been friends for years. They share dinners, holidays, and traditions. The only problem for these two benevolent clans is that they're about to share something else: infidelity.

The eldest daughter and son of the Ostroffs and Wallings are coming back home. Nina (Leighton Meester), fresh off of a break-up and Toby are both returning after being on their own for five years. Most stories would dictate that Nina and Toby get together and turn the friendly bond between families into a marital one. Instead, Nina engages in an affair with David (Hugh Laurie), upheaving everything.

Christmas, never the time of festiveness that it promises, is now a battleground between good pals David and Terry (Oliver Platt). Carol Ostroff (Allison Janney) and Paige Walling (Catherine Keener) are left to take sides as well as Vanessa, the daughter no one wants to deal with. The holidays will not prove to kind to David as Christmas cards and anything else that can be used as a weapons in Paige's war on destroying him. Keener seems miscast as a controlling and vindictive wife here, someone like Laura Linney may have been a better choice. From the eye of the audience it's no wonder why David spends more time in his shack than with his wife.

If you have been reading this and assuming the story takes place from Hugh Laurie's perspective, you would be wrong. It is Vanessa's story and she lends her voice to the unfolding drama, but the writers seemingly never intended for the focus to ever be on her. Why Nina is expected to be sympathized with leaves one puzzled. She is generally selfish and oblivious to what she has done to both families.

Oddly enough, the middle-aged father who would be expected to be made the bad guy, is hard to dislike. David is no Humbert Humbert and he is torn by his quest for youth as he watches the town turn on him. Hugh Laurie has always had a knack for turning jerks into engaging characters so it should come as no surprise that David is easily one of the few highlights of Oranges.

Suburban life has been captured on film so frequently that most stories of domestic bliss are already over before they begin. And down to the all too familiar ending where all the family members make a sudden realization that changes their loves, The Oranges is just another template.

**/****

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