'WELCOME TO THE RILEYS': Three Stars (Out of Five)
James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo star in this indie film about a man who forms a special bond with a young stripper / hooker after losing his daughter at the same age. It's directed by Jake Scott (who's prior experience is mainly in music videos) and written by Ken Hixon (who also wrote 'INVENTING THE ABBOTTS' and 'CITY BY THE SEA'). The film premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival and has received mostly positive reviews from critics. It marks a nice notable acting turn from Stewart, who plays a role quite different then any other she's done before.
Gandolfini plays Doug and Leo plays Lois Riley, an unhappy married couple that have been troubled with depression for years after losing their fifteen year old daughter Emily. Lois hasn't left their home since their daughter's death and Doug, in a need for attention, has been having an affair with a local waitress. One day on a business trip to New Orleans Doug meets a sixteen year old runaway girl named Mallory (Stewart) working as a stripper at a strip club there. She reminds him very much of his daughter and after turning her down for a lap dance he instead escorts her home. The next day Doug offers to pay Mallory a hundred dollars a day to stay with her at her house. He begins fixing up the home and taking care of Mallory, almost pretending that she's his daughter. After calling his wife to tell her he's not coming home Lois decides she must, for the first time in years, venture out of her house and travel to New Orleans to save her marriage.
The movie is a little clichéd and sugarcoated but there's also a lot of dark and ugly notes in the film as well and it manages to strike an even balance. The acting and directing is decent enough that the setup seems believable and you really learn to care for the characters. Gandolfini is good and lovable like always and Leo turns in another impressive performance and continues to show her range. It's Stewart that really shines in the film though and silences her critics by continuing to broaden her range as well (as she did with 'THE RUNAWAYS'). The film is emotional and rewarding to a certain extent. Nothing too powerful or memorable but a nice little indie drama that gives some good actors some nice material to play around with. Worth seeing if you're into that sort of thing.
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