Welcome to the Rileys
Directed by Jake Scott. Starring James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo. (2010, R, 110 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 12, 2010
Terrific performances can’t save this preposterous film from itself, but they do make it more bearable to watch. Welcome to the Rileys tells the same old sad story about a depressed middle-aged plumbing-supplies salesman and the teenage runaway stripper whose life he tries to save and thereby vanquish the dark cloud that hangs over his life. Doug and Lois Riley (Gandolfini and Leo) live in a tidy Indianapolis home, where the orderliness masks the despair that lies within. Married 30 years, the couple grieves for their dead daughter and keeps her bedroom intact. At the start of the film, Doug drives down to New Orleans to attend a sales convention, but Lois is an agoraphobe who never accompanies him anywhere. Once in New Orleans, this salesman, of course, wanders into a bar where he first sets eyes on the young pole dancer, Mallory (Stewart). After another chance meeting, Doug suggests that he move from his hotel into the hovel this girl calls home. It’s chaste; she reminds him of his daughter, and he wants to help out. So begins this awkward relationship, which continues as predictably as it starts. After so much time playing the professional virgin in the Twilight movies, it’s nice to see Stewart play a character with pimples, bruises, and self-inflicted scars. Gandolfini’s sad hulk is devoid of anything salacious; he’s just a man who wants another daughter to fill the void in his life. Unlike the tough characters she usually plays, Leo gets to explore Lois’ fragility. However, director Scott (son of Ridley) telegraphs every emotion way in advance of its arrival and the screenplay by Ken Hixon drags out every bump in the narrative road. Adding to the dreariness is the location shooting that focuses on the post-Katrina decay. The welcome mat on this film is very soggy indeed.