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 Michael Bergeron
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Butter and The Oranges

Butter and The Oranges
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A couple of comedies opening this weekend deserve to be on your shortlist of things to see. The Oranges and Butter are both opening up at the downtown Sundance Cinema Houston. Butter is the more seditious of the two while both are aimed at adult sensibilities.

The Oranges takes a sly look at the friendship between two middle class clans; both with daughters one of whom is the prodigal come home from college. Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener are the Wallings (daughter Alla Shawkat lives at home), while across the street are Oliver Platt and Allison Janney as the Ostroffs. Nina Ostroff (Leighton Meester), briefly home from school and having been jilted by her beau, promptly has an affair with Mr. Walling. The Oranges progresses like a sex farce from this point while also charting the dissension between the adults. The scene where Janney bumps into her daughter with Laurie outside a motel has to be one of the best double takes of recent memory.

Butter reminded me of a satire from the ‘70s like Smile (Michael Ritchie’s send up of beauty pageants). The contest here concerns butter carving, and the characters are all a bit over the top as would be appropriate for the social and political skewing about to go down. Jennifer Garner headlines as an Iowa housewife with gubernatorial ambitions (think Palin) while the other contestants, all femme, are aspects of the female psyche: Olivia Wilde as a stripper with a grudge against Garner’s husband; Yara Shahidi, the older-than-her-years 10-year old adopted daughter of Alicia Silverstone and Rob Corddry; and the silly cat lady brilliantly realized by Kristen Schaal. Hugh Jackman shows up for about ten-minutes as a redneck car dealer and has what might be one of the greatest lines of all time: “Her pussy was tighter than it was in high school, it was like she hadn’t used it in 20 years.” Butter takes no prisoners on its way to revealing the base motives and backhand dealings of the denizens of the American Heartland.

–Michael Bergeron