out of Five
Running time: 110
Quietly assured and superbly written, this is an emotionally engaging drama with a trio of terrific performances from James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo.
What's it all about?
Directed by Jake Scott (son of Ridley), Welcome to the Rileys stars James Gandolfini as Indianapolis plumber Doug Riley, whose wife Lois (Melissa Leo) has become an agoraphobic after the tragic loss of their teenage daughter in a car crash two years previously. Doug has sought solace of his own in an affair with waffle waitress Vivian (Eisa Davis), but when that comes to a sudden and equally tragic end, he is utterly devastated.
However, while on a business trip to New Orleans to attend a plumbers'
convention, Doug meets foul-mouthed young stripper-slash-prostitute Mallory (Kristen Stewart) and decides that he's going to take care of her. At first Mallory assumes his motives are sexual and can't understand why he won't take advantage of her, but the two gradually bond after Doug helps fix up her run-down flat.
The performances are excellent: Gandolfini is engaging and likeable as Doug (as well as pulling off a passable Midwest accent), despite his affair with Vivian and we correctly sense that he's a troubled man with a kind heart who has entered into an affair partly because he doesn't know how to help his wife (who has also shut down, emotionally). Similarly, Stewart is suitably spiky as Mallory, delivering a performance that should silence some of her Twilight critics, while Leo is typically brilliant as Lois, who slowly comes back to life when she decides to go after Doug (the first time she smiles is one of several lovely character moments).
There isn't much more to the plot, but Scott's quietly assured direction keeps things moving at a decent pace and the script carefully avoids many of the expected clichés. There's also a nicely naturalistic feel to the film with various scenes unfolding in a believable manner rather than feeling forced or over-scripted.
That said, the low-key approach backfires slightly when it comes to the ending, which initially feels a little underwhelming, although a nicely written coda ultimately compensates. Similarly, the script stutters somewhat towards the end and can't quite resist spelling out a little more than it needs to, as regards Doug's motivations.
Impressively directed and sharply written, Welcome to the Rileys is an emotionally engaging drama with terrific performances from its three leads. Worth seeing.
Welcome to the Rileys (15)