Movie Review: Sad and Heartfelt 'Welcome to the Rileys'

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 13:08 Written by  JimmyO
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Movie Review: Sad and Heartfelt 'Welcome to the Rileys'

Welcome to the Rileys is filled with heartbreak. Doug and Lois Riley (James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo) have suffered so much from it that she refuses to leave the house. After the tragic death of their teenage daughter, everything has changed for this couple. Doug has found himself in a secret relationship with a waitress named Vivian (Elsa Davis), one which ends up bringing more pain. They clearer had been happy together at one time, probably very happy. Sadly, they are both in desperate need of each other now more than ever, yet they just can’t connect.

When Doug takes a trip to a convention in New Orleans, he meets a stripper named Mallory (Kristen Stewart). She dances for him and convinces him to get a private show. He decides to go with her mostly due to the fact that some of his peers have shown up to the same strip club. Once upstairs, it is clear that Doug is not interested in sex, at least not from a girl that reminds him of his daughter. Not surprisingly, the two meet again and begin to develop a father/daughter bond. Things get even more complicated when Lois finally gets out of the house and surprises her husband. This is an odd family mix as you can probably tell.

Kristen Stewart is clearly the one to watch here. Since taking on Bella in the Twilight Franchise, it seems she has had to prove herself more than most young actresses. In ‘Rileys’, she still pulls at her hair and has a sly nervousness that she evokes. Yet in nearly all her non-Twilight features, she offers a sort of vulnerability which you just can’t fake. Her relationship with James is very touching and sometimes very real. Once Melissa’s character enters “Mom” mode, there is an even more delicate and heartbreaking mother/daughter bond.

Gandolfini, Leo and Stewart are well and able to carry this story pretty far, and it truly is a success for that reason. The script by Ken Hixon smartly avoids getting into over-sentimentality. Director Jake Scott also covers this dark and slightly disheartening material extremely well. Occasionally the actions and conversations grew a little redundant for the first half of the film, yet things picked up when Melissa Leo’s mother figure arrived.

‘Rileys’ is a sad story. It has humor and it has heart, and it was nice to see a story like this handled with such great care. As far as Mallory is concerned, the progress she makes is mostly believable, but you wonder if she can truly change her life around. The three main actors all share a very surprising connection. Stewart’s Mallory is a girl who is in dire need of someone to care about her, but when someone does, she lashes out at them. This triangle makes for a sad journey that brings a little bit of hope to everyone involved. You are then left to wonder, is hope enough?

Will you be watching Welcome to the Rileys?

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