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Greetings again from the darkness. Reading the synopsis on this one
could lead you to believe you've seen the same thing 40 other times -
an indie flick where a nice guy rescues the teenage runaway who has
fallen into a life of stripping/prostitution. This assumption would be
incorrect. What sets this one apart is the script from writer Ken Hixon
and the acting trio of James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa
Two of those names may surprise you. Gandolfini is of course best known from his run on The Sopranos. What many don't realize is that he was a fine character actor prior to that iconic role. And many more know Kristen Stewart only as Bella from the Twilight franchise. In fact, she was a scene stealer prior to that in Panic Room and again in Into the Wild. Melissa Leo has experienced a career boon since her Oscar nomination for Frozen River. This year, she can also be seen in Conviction and The Fighter.
Hixon's script is unusual because it has the feel of how these people would actually interact. Gandolfini owns a plumbing supply business and leading, as they say, a life of quiet desperation. His wife (Leo) has been a virtual recluse since their teenage daughter died. Their marriage basically died that night as well, though they keep going through the motions that 30 years together brings. While attending a convention in New Orleans, Gandolfini stumbles into a strip joint and falls right into the life of Stewart.
The obvious thought is that he sees this as his opportunity to rescue her from this awful life and be the father he never got to be his own daughter. But there is more. He really comes across as a guy just searching for meaning in life ... his own life. He doesn't pretend to have the answers, but is not content to sit around and wait to die. His bizarre actions motivate his wife to actually leave the house and join him in New Orleans. Her reaction to what she finds is, once again, very real and un-Hollywood.
No need for me to give away any details or plot points. Watching these three together is refreshing for this avid movie goer. The stereotypes are minimal. The dialogue is sparse, but authentic ... just like the setting. Searching for meaning can be a painful process and it's not always obvious when one has succeeded. The director of the film is avid music video director Jake Scott, who also happens to be the son of Ridley and nephew of Tony. Jake shows none of the over the top tendencies of his more famous relatives. In fact, the level of understatedness is a joy to behold.
Ever since it's initial premiere at the Sundance Film Festival back in
January of this year, "Welcome to the Rileys" has always been on my
must see list. Unlike other film critics and journalists, I
unfortunately, do not currently have a career in film journalism. I
currently do it as a hobby/part time job. What does this mean? Well I
don't get to hit all the festivals I would like to, but only a few per
year. In the near future, I would hope to have a career in film
journalism and be able to attend at least 20 festivals a year.
Thankfully, I did have the opportunity to catch a screening of "Welcome
to the Rileys" at the 19th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival this year.
"Welcome to the Rileys" tells the tale of Doug (James Gandolfini), a man who seems to have lost all desire for life. He lives at home with his depressed wife Lois (Melissa Leo) who hasn't left the house in several years. On top of this, he seems to have grown tired of his job as well as his marriage. One day on a business trip, Doug runs into Mallory (Kristen Stewart) who is both troubled and lost. This is when Doug realizes that he can help improve her life and seeks salvation by taking care of Mallory. This is where the underlying details of Doug's life begin to unravel...
The best part of "Welcome to the Rileys" hands down are the performances. I have been following Kristen Stewart as an actress for several years now ever since I first saw her in "Panic Room." Many people seem to have a love/hate relationship with her thanks to her unemotional and stiff role as Bella in the "Twilight" franchise. I would love to convince people to give her a shot as an actress but people seem to be rather set in their ways on her. For Stewart, it's hard not being the typical hot young actress. She's a rather unique actress with a non-typical Hollywood look and that's what I like about her. As for her performance in "Welcome to the Rileys," she is both raw and risqué. The amount of bad language and how dirty Stewart looks in the film would make a sailor look clean. Stewart's performance is by far the best one in the film. She is a lost soul with very little self respect in the film. She plays a stripper, which is a role I never thought I would ever see her play but just plays it perfectly. This is without a doubt Stewart's best role to date and even tops her performance as Joan Jett in "The Runaways." I would even argue that Stewart deserves an Oscar for her performance here, that's how good I felt she was in the film.
Besides Stewart, James Gandolfini gives an Oscar worthy performance here as well. I like the fact that Gandolfini decided to step out of his typical tough guy role to play a character who had a lot of heart and emotion was nice to see. This was a real turn for him. Many people know Gandolfini from "The Sopranos" and I am happy to say this role is a complete opposite from that. In this role, he is a very troubled character with a complex background. His performance is very dramatic, heartfelt, and powerful. When he argues with either Stewart or Leo in the film, you truly believe the raw emotion that is being displayed. Stewart and Gandolfini play off one another like pros in the film. They have great chemistry. As for Melissa Leo, she was also great in the film, she did a great job playing a wife who was damaged. When Stewart and Leo were together on screen their chemistry was amazing. As I said earlier in the review, the three lead roles were terrific! Director Jake Scott did a great job on this film. This was his first film since 1999 and he really hit this one out of the park. He captured the raw emotion and the suffering of all these characters, not to mention the fact he captured the grunginess of New Orleans. The direction of the film was great and there are several memorable scenes in this film including one scene with Melissa Leo's character Lois trying to drive her car for the first time in several years.
Ken Hixon was in charge of writing the screenplay for "Rileys" and I have to give him some credit points here. Some might say the the dialog was too over the top for him but I think that really shows how uneducated and the lack of respect Stewart's character had. I think it made it much more believable to a way that someone who had that background would speak. I also think the character development in the script was on point. The characters had the perfect amount of background to not make them interesting and not clichéd.
At the end of the day, "Welcome to the Rileys" almost lived up to all the hype surrounding it. I basically went to see the film for the performance by Stewart and Gandolfini and those definitely did not disappoint. The film, itself had good character development, good performances, was raw and gritty, and had a decent storyline. The ending wasn't perfect but it fit the bill in order to not be a typical clichéd movie. Its definitely holding a spot on my top 10 of the year even though it isn't near the top. The film is worthy of admission and I can definitely see this film getting some attention come Oscar season for the performances. If you are a fan of Stewart or of Gandolfini, this is a definitely a must see as well as those who appreciate a realistic dramatic film.
MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Welcome to the Rileys" is a solid 8 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WELCOME TO THE RILEYS is the debut film from Jake Scott, the son of
director Ridley Scott, and this drama is a painful meditation on the
familiar themes of grief, loss, guilt and redemption. This is an
assured debut from Scott junior, who shows himself to be comfortable in
dealing with character driven dramas exploring emotionally charged
material, more so than his famous father and uncle who are more at home
with big budget spectacles full of action and special effects.
Doug (The Sopranos' James Gandolfini) and Louise (Melissa Leo) Riley have been married for thirty years, but the death of their teenage daughter in a car crash has driven a coldness between them. Louise has rarely left the house since, while Doug deals with his grief in privacy. When Doug attends a convention in New Orleans he meets Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a teenage stripper cum prostitute on a path to self-destruction. Something in her strikes a paternalistic chord in Doug and he decides to help her clean up her life, whether she appreciates his efforts or not. His decision also helps to heal the rift in his relationship with Louise.
Scott draws excellent performances from his leads. Gandolfini has an imposing presence, but here he tones down his more aggressive style, and comes across as a more sympathetic character. Leo is good as the fragile Louise, who slowly takes a chance and begins to emerge from her self-imposed withdrawal, and she adds a touch of humour to the film. And Stewart is again a revelation with a feisty and strong performance as the independent, foul-mouthed and brash Mallory. The phenomenal success of the Twilight franchise has given Stewart the freedom to seek out more gritty and edgy smaller films and challenging roles that enable her to flex her acting muscles (Adventureland, The Runaways, etc).
Scott also makes good use of locations in the French Quarter to add atmosphere. Welcome To The Rileys is the type of gritty, edgy low budget independent film that struggles to reach a broad audience or gain a commercial cinematic release, but is nonetheless a rewarding experience well worth checking out.
"I can't come home right now. I know I'm not dead yet."
Welcome to the Rileys is certainly a flawed movie. The characters are a little flat, and don't seem to be written as genuine people, at times. The story scenario, with its focus on lost loved ones and damaged people finding healing or comfort in each other, is one that seems to be in every other movie, recently. And the ending seems a bit rushed and unfinished.
But still, I found myself enjoying it all.
The key lies in the color and atmosphere added by using New Orleans as the primary location, and the performances of the three primary cast members.
The first point may appeal only to those who have visited or who live in the city. Filming a movie in New Orleans gives it an instant, appealing flavor to anyone who's been there before, walking past the same restaurants and down the same streets. Very cool. I'll admit that this might not be as big a deal to others as it was to me, though.
What everyone should be able to recognize and appreciate, however, are the great performances by James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, and Kristen Stewart. They carry this movie with some really excellent acting, even though their characters are slightly hobbled at times with some spotty writing. Especially when it comes to the dynamics of the various relationships. Still, the three of them (especially Gandolfini and Stewart) easily make Welcome to the Rileys worth at least a rental.
As a movie buff, I tend to gravitate toward the art & independent
material but also due to my area's theater selections, see a fair
amount of mainstream movies. Yes, I catch few good films but many times
I find disappointment in both worlds. This time ended differently. I
can't help but remark how impressed I was by the honest writing and
acting of all three characters. Struck me as rather genuine, gritty and
believable plot-wise. I also was unsure if I appreciated the decision
to refrain from thoroughly fleshing-out every character. One has
staggering levels in which they are left to guess about all three. Ie:
What happened to Stewart's character other than her mom's accident and
demise to lead her on such a disheartening path? Why not more
information and insight as to chronicle the downward spiral of this
marriage after the child's death? Why not dig into and explore the
wife's inward turn to near-hermit? Why is the husband not only so
disenchanted with home but also work, albeit this desperate & hopeless
soul floundering about? Well, actually wise decision to leave this
unknown; I see it's not all that critical to the success of the story.
Writers today over-inform.
Another area I originally thought to be a caveat to success was ending as it did. I mean everyone likes and cheers for a happy ending. But pondering this further--really how realistic is this in life? Moreover (and I've worked with troubled and lost kids) this film plays out precisely how life goes. It's not simple to intervene and turn someone around late in the game. There is wisdom, perception and integrity in this attempt to depict a more genuine article of life and that was done. I think Stewart's work was exceptional and her remark that she's "no one's little girl" (something to that affect) captures it brilliantly. You see throughout her vulnerability, survival instinct, yet damaged nature without her acting being sentimental or "hollywood". Yes, nice little gem.
Realistic, hard-core, weepy, funny, stark! Tennessee Williams lives
again in Ken Hixon! Perfect cast: James Gandolfini is fantastic as this
big oaf sentimentalist who doesn't want to see his tombstone while he's
still alive and so he lives every moment. Then there is his wife played
by Melissa Leo, what she does in the driveway is laugh-out-loud funny.
And finally, the great trio includes Kristen Stewart who is amazing
(and whoever did her whore make-up--kudos!) as this worn-out sexual
fighter who plays the lowest of the low with such warped dignity that I
just want to hand her an Oscar now. And finally, New Orleans is the
fourth character as a city that is also beat-up and striving for a
rebirth, so I guess you could say she plays herself.
Ken Hixon, I pledge to watch every thing you create 'cause you are the snake's suspenders!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WELCOME TO THE RILEYS is a little sign on the garage doors of Doug and
Lois Riley in Indianapolis, Indiana. It also serves as the title of
this fine little film written by Ken Hixon and directed by Jake Scott
that examines how the loss of a 15-year-old daughter Emily in an
automobile accident has resulted in the crumbling of the parent's
marriage and relationship. Doug (James Gandolfini) has an affair with
younger waitress Vivian (Eisa Davis) while Lois (Melissa Leo) becomes
so isolated in her agoraphobic state and psychotropic mediations that
she is no longer available to Doug. A crisis occurs when Vivian dies in
cardiac arrest and in Doug's honest grief he visits her grave only to
find that Lois has unilaterally purchased a headstone with Doug's and
Lois' names on it beside the grave of their departed Emily, a fact that
Doug goes to New Orleans on a convention and there encounters stripper/prostitute Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a 16 year old unkempt, foul mouthed runaway from Florida: Mallory sees the kind Doug as a john but Doug's interest is in her plight, not her business offerings. Doug obviously responds to Mallory as though she were his lost daughter, moving into her filthy apartment, trying to improve her view of life. Doug phones Lois that he is going to stay in New Orleans a while, a message that gives Lois the courage to actually leave her home and drive to New Orleans: during Lois' somewhat comedic trip she stops for food and a strange man comes on to her - something that awakens her self esteem before she reaches New Orleans. Once Lois arrives at her destination she is proud of overcoming her agoraphobia and Doug is happy to see the healing Lois. Together they stay with Mallory, facing the fact that for both of them Mallory represents the chance to restore their love for the daughter they've lost. How the three cope is the remaining of the film.
The three leads offer polished performances - some of the finest work we have seen from both Gandolfini and Leo who together make this film better than the sum of its parts. Kristen Stewart immerses herself in Mallory and though she still remains a rather monochromatic actress, this role offers her the ability to stretch her acting chops: she is convincing as the victim of the dregs of society and makes us care about a character who seems to have few redeeming qualities. This trio of actors plays well as a small ensemble and the result is a film that has been far too overlooked by the general public. Recommended.
'WELCOME TO THE RILEYS': Three Stars (Out of Five)
James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo star in this indie film about a man who forms a special bond with a young stripper / hooker after losing his daughter at the same age. It's directed by Jake Scott (who's prior experience is mainly in music videos) and written by Ken Hixon (who also wrote 'INVENTING THE ABBOTTS' and 'CITY BY THE SEA'). The film premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival and has received mostly positive reviews from critics. It marks a nice notable acting turn from Stewart, who plays a role quite different then any other she's done before.
Gandolfini plays Doug and Leo plays Lois Riley, an unhappy married couple that have been troubled with depression for years after losing their fifteen year old daughter Emily. Lois hasn't left their home since their daughter's death and Doug, in a need for attention, has been having an affair with a local waitress. One day on a business trip to New Orleans Doug meets a sixteen year old runaway girl named Mallory (Stewart) working as a stripper at a strip club there. She reminds him very much of his daughter and after turning her down for a lap dance he instead escorts her home. The next day Doug offers to pay Mallory a hundred dollars a day to stay with her at her house. He begins fixing up the home and taking care of Mallory, almost pretending that she's his daughter. After calling his wife to tell her he's not coming home Lois decides she must, for the first time in years, venture out of her house and travel to New Orleans to save her marriage.
The movie is a little clichéd and sugarcoated but there's also a lot of dark and ugly notes in the film as well and it manages to strike an even balance. The acting and directing is decent enough that the setup seems believable and you really learn to care for the characters. Gandolfini is good and lovable like always and Leo turns in another impressive performance and continues to show her range. It's Stewart that really shines in the film though and silences her critics by continuing to broaden her range as well (as she did with 'THE RUNAWAYS'). The film is emotional and rewarding to a certain extent. Nothing too powerful or memorable but a nice little indie drama that gives some good actors some nice material to play around with. Worth seeing if you're into that sort of thing.
Watch our review show 'MOVIE TALK' at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN5KZOE7p28
This independent film "Welcome to the Rileys" is one when you watch you
will feel gritty and touched and see that life is full of heartache,
pain and it's very complex for some and the cast is an all star lineup
featuring James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, and Melissa Leo.
Gandolfini("The Sopranos")is Doug Riley a married man who's a humble guy yet inside he's a torched soul as he stills feels the pain and sorrow of losing his teenage daughter. And Doug decides to take a business trip from Indiana to New Orleans to get away for some pondering from his sweet yet neurotic and nervous ridden wife Lois(the great Melissa Leo). And upon arriving in the big easy he meets in a club a young exotic dancer named Mallory(Kristen Stewart). And Mallory has more problems than just being a stripper she's a messed up and foul mouthed little girl who needs direction.
And ironically Doug fills the void in his heart by feeling sorry for Mallory as he ventures to her rundown apartment and slowly yet surely he takes her under his wing. Doug even starts to fix things up and stay right with her this is love attachment not of the erotic kind. It's like this guy with daddy issues has solved his complex life and bleeding heart with a new love as this takes away the pain of his lost daughter. And finally when Lois journeys down to the big easy she sees that them being with Mallory was not meant.
Overall pretty good picture of emotional attachment and love still it proves that some connections were not meant to be still if you show a troubled heart love then hope and a new journey is possible.
Doug Riley is a plumbing supplies contractor from Indianapolis who
lives with his wife Lois and reaching their 30th wedding anniversary.
After they lost their 15 year old daughter in a tragic car accident the
couple has grown distant with no exchange of intimate relationship and
spoken barely few words a day. It seems like Doug and Lois both miss
their lives inside yet don't know where to begin in finding it again.
Meanwhile Doug finds comfort in a black waitress yet that relationship
doesn't last long either even though it brings some kind of a peace in
to Doug's life. Lost and torn this couple seems to be just living their
days for nothing.
Doug goes to New Orleans for a convention and there he unexpectedly meets a 16 year old girl Mallory who is a stripper. Rather than taking advantage of her with her own consent Doug see someone else in her and starts to emotionally care for her. He somehow makes in an ambition to take this teenage girl out of her miserable life and give her some comfort and long lost fatherhood. But this task become difficult by the day as Mallory resist to change or to accept Doug's generosity even though she know his genuine motives.
'Welcome to the Riley's' is a heartfelt drama. Most of the moments are silent and filled with self perseverance but the script gradually builds up a solid story line. It's not boring even though it's a little slow which almost all dramas are. But there is something special about this one. This one is about self retribution. Don't know if it's totally correct to describe it that way but I feel like Doug is trying to find peace in his heart by dedicating his effort to make a something good for Mallory. The society is a wicked place to be good some times which the script proves over and over. The harsh words coming out of Mallory's mouth must have pierced Doug's heart one too many times. Yet he patiently set on his path which maybe his experience in life has tough him to do so.
Acting wise the movie is mention worthy. Doug played by James Gandolfini is a role skillfully done. And at the same time Melissa Leo effectively plays Lois the depressed, grieving mother who hasn't set foot out of the house for months. And finally the Twilight famed Kristen Stewart portraying the damaged and arrogant stripper girl make us forget her glamorous lead role in the romantic vampire franchise with her performance in 'Welcome to the Riley's'.
As a viewer you will be made to judge these characters. You will be asked to decide if what they do is right or wrong or if they did really succeeded in their roles at the end. Even thought it has no fairy tale ending this movie will live in your minds for a long time.
read more of my reviews at flickshout.blogspot.com
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