Welcome to the Rileys
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Golden Globe® winner James Gandolfini, (“The Sopranos”) is Doug Riley, a man at the crossroads. Ever since the tragic death of his teenage daughter, he's led a life of quiet desperation... and now, something has to give. On a business trip to New Orleans, he encounters Mallory (Kristen Stewart, the Twilight films) -- a raw, angry runaway living a dangerous life as a stripper. Moved by emotions he barely understands, Riley abandons his old life to save hers. The tenuous balance is threatened when his wife Lois (Academy Award® nominee Melissa Leo, Best Actress, Frozen River, 2008) shakes off the fears that have kept her homebound for years. Now three lost souls seek hope and forgiveness in each other... and together, they discover a rare gift of connection that feels like family.
Terrific performances by two veteran actors buoy Welcome to the Rileys, an entertaining and surprisingly quirky look at a dark subject. Doug and Lois Riley (James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo) have a home in Indianapolis, a set of engraved headstones already waiting for them in the local cemetery, and a marriage that's been crumbling since their daughter died in a car crash at age 15; Doug has found some solace in an affair with a waitress at a local diner, but even that proves to be a mixed blessing at best. On a business trip to New Orleans, he wanders into a strip club and meets Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a broke, foul-mouthed stripper-cum-prostitute who takes his carnal intentions for granted. But there aren't any--Doug wants a daughter, not a whore, and in a credibility-defying sequence of events, he immediately moves into her squalid apartment (paying her a hundred bucks a day for the privilege), decides to sell his plumbing supply business, and phones his wife to tell her he's not coming home "for a while." Lois's reaction? She piles into Doug's Cadillac and tools down to N'Awlins, informing her hubby that if he's living with Mallory (or Allison, or whatever her name is), then she will too. The struggle of parents trying to cope with the death of a child is not a fresh topic, but from Ordinary People in 1980 to much more recent films like Rabbit Hole, Creation, and The Lovely Bones, it has usually been treated with a much heavier hand than the one wielded by director Jake Scott here; the scene in which Lois struggles to figure out the Caddy's many bells and whistles is played for laughs, and her encounter with a would-be suitor while en route to New Orleans, while poignant, is refreshingly unsentimental. Gandolfini (in a role that may be the furthest he's yet gotten from Tony Soprano) and Leo are excellent, and although Stewart seems to be trying just a bit too hard to distance herself from the Twilight franchise, she's a young actress with a bright future. --Sam Graham
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One day, Doug's job requires that he attended a conference in New Orleans. While in New Orleans and desperate to avoid the company of his coworkers and friends, Doug enters a strip club and is sexually propositioned by what would appear to be an underage stripper named Mallory (Kristen Stewart). Struck by the resemblance Mallory bears to his late daughter and after seeing the conditions in which Mallory lives when he takes her home, Doug quits his job and tells Lois he won't be coming home so he can stay in New Orleans and help Mallory get her life together.
Lois--who knew about Vivian and believes Doug to have moved to New Orleans with another woman--overcomes her fear and drives to New Orleans thinking she'll confront Doug's indiscretions. However, she finds that Doug has taken a 16-year-old runaway from Florida under his wing.
I don't typically like dramas because more often than not, they're modern fairty tales. Most dramas today are oriented toward flattering lighting for close-ups of big names rather than portrayals of real-life events. This movie breaks the mold, though. It's an extremely heart-felt movie; Kristen Stewart is surprisingly effective as Mallory/Allison, the 16-year-old runaway-turned-stripper-turned-prostitute who desperately needs guidance and affection. Leo is also stunning in the movie, providing arguably one of the best performances of her career. I'm also surprised you don't hear more about this movie due to Gandolfini's performance.
Kristen Stewart's genius is to play deeply flawed, even unsympathetic characters, and yet somehow break your heart. Probably her best performance to date as "Mallory," a girl "injured to the edge of no return".
Melissa, as Gandolfini's wife, is a complex woman struggling with a mistake from years ago.
All three characters in this drama are leads; each has a story. How these people reach and affect each other avoids the familiar yet restores your faith in humanity.
Haunting and practically perfect. Repeated viewings are as satisfying as the first.
If you love James Gandolfini and love a good story about family/struggle, give this a go.
RIP JAMES GANDOLFINI!