Thursday, October 28, 2010



Welcome to the Rileys Review

3 out of 4 STARS

Unhappy middle aged man. Unhappy agoraphobic wife. Spunky teenaged prostitute. There's probably a joke there, somewhere - there are certainly a bevy of cliches. On top of that, who would think to pair James Gandolfini with Kristen Stewart? And then let Jake Scott, with only music video and TV commercial credits to his name, direct? Yet here we have "Welcome to the Rileys": quiet, sad, splendidly told. A sum of some unusual parts that comes together more seamlessly than seems possible.

Doug (Mr. Gandolfini) and Lois Riley (Melissa Leo) are crumbling in the unspectacular way that two people who have drifted apart are wont to do. Not that there hasn't been drama - eight years prior, their teenage daughter was in a fatal accident, something that neither of them have yet dealt with. Now, they are so completely incapable of relating to each other, they can barely have a conversation. So when Doug goes to a conference in New Orleans for a few days, meets Mallory (Ms. Stewart), a teenage stripper, and tells Lois he is not coming home, it seems obvious where that's headed. Refreshingly, it never gets there. Instead, we're left with a compromise of a relationship between two people who are getting what they need from one another over an uneasy truce. When Lois joins the pair, the fragile balance that's been struck is tipped and not one of them is unchanged.

Mr. Scott (Ridley's son), while perhaps more experienced in shorter formats, takes his time with the 110 minutes of his first feature and tells the story with a gentleness that belies his past credits. Likewise, James Gandolfini, so much larger than life as the Tony Soprano we all remember may not be the first person you'd think of to play the drawling, soft-spoken Doug Riley. His performance is spot on, though, as is the ever talented Ms. Leo's. It's Ms. Stewart that seems a little out of place, and probabaly out of her depth, with her seasoned costars. Her stacatto delivery is abrupt at times, and not always suited to the dialog, though she does bring an awkward vulnerability to her role that seems to (mostly) fit.

There isn't a ton of action in this film, but then, there doesn't need to be. Its richness comes from the depth of its characters, the demons they're struggling with and, of course, the transformation that each goes through - however subtle. In the end, it makes for an interesting, thoughtful experience that is not always pleasant, but will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

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