- READER REVIEWS
Welcome to the Rileys
(No longer in theaters)
Michael Costigan, Giovanni Agnelli, Scott Bloom
Samuel Goldwyn Films/Destination Films
Oct 29, 2010
In the press notes for Welcome to the Rileys, the seasoned music-video director Jake Scott—son of Ridley, nephew of Tony—says he has long been “interested in doing something quite real about ordinary people.” Yikes. When a style-conscious director talks like that, it usually means you can forget about grace or lyricism or anything that might interfere with the requisite quite-real ordinariness. But Scott’s stabs at drabness don’t undo the movie—it’s pretty good. Ken Hixon’s script contrives a lot of mutual-healing set pieces and then sadly but shrewdly aborts them: That makes the drama more Chekhovian than “quite real.”
James Gandolfini plays Indianapolis plumbing-supply-store owner Doug Riley with a gentle southern accent that’s not spot-on but changes his rhythms enough to make you see him with new eyes—and rediscover his soulfulness. Riley is sunk in grief over the death of his teenage daughter, although not nearly as low as his wife, Lois (Melissa Leo), who has put herself under house arrest. On a trip to a convention in New Orleans, he wanders into a club and meets a stripper (Kristen Stewart) who calls herself Mallory. Fleeing upstairs to avoid some drunken colleagues, he does the usual sad-older-man-meets-young-whore two-step (something like, “Do you want me to suck you off?” “No, can we just talk?” etc.). But maybe because over the years we’ve seen Gandolfini get so much head from strippers, his demurral here is poignant. And Stewart is a mess. She has oily hair and a complexion that either went to hell or was made to look as if it did. She also twitches every second. It’s almost too much, but judging from her sullen, visibly uncomfortable talk-show appearances, this might represent her emotional state better than Twilight’s goody-good Bella’s. Her rapport with Leo’s Lois, moved to join her wayward husband, has that mixture of tension and ease that puts across the mother-daughter vibe without pushing it. These people seem truly at sea, settling for glimmers of hope amid the crushing quite-realness.