Judge Roy Hrab welcomed the closing credits of this film.
Our review of Welcome To The Rileys (Blu-Ray), published January 19th, 2011, is also available.
Ever since the tragic death of his teenage daughter, he's led a life of quiet desperation…
Grieving parents? Check. A stripper in need of a father figure? Check. A city (e.g., New Orleans) that symbolizes the spiritual rehabilitation of the characters? Check. Characters that overcome obstacles and find themselves richer for the experience? Check. Yup, Welcome To The Rileys features all the required clichés for a family drama.
Facts of the Case
Doug (James Gandolfini, The Sopranos) and Lois Riley (Melissa Leo, The Fighter) are a long married couple, living in Indianapolis. The husband and wife have grown distant following the death of their daughter in a car crash. Doug sits in the garage alone, smoking and crying. Lois literally hasn't left the house in years. Business takes Doug to New Orleans, where he meets Mallory (Kristen Stewart, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse). She's a stripper, and a prostitute, and only 16-years-old. Oh, and she somewhat resembles Doug's deceased daughter, Emily. It's easy to see where this is going.
Welcome To The Rileys has so many problems with its story that it's easy to miss the fine performances by Gandolfini and Leo. Conversely, the performances, no matter how good, can't hide the film's woefully poor script.
The problems start early and often with the most glaring being the quick blossoming of Doug and Mallory's relationship. Within hours of meeting her, he's sleeping at her place for the night, checking out of his hotel, and paying her $100 a day to stay so he can live with her. A few hours later, he's decided to sell-off his business, buy a new mattress, clean the toilet, and fix the electricity. Before long, Doug's in full-fledged father mode and Mallory is acting like a rebellious teenage daughter. All of this happens within 48 hours of them meeting each other and without the pair having a meaningful conversation. The relationship is so forced and contrived that it threatens to turn the film into an embarrassingly bad joke.
The pattern of forcing the action without laying any type of compelling foundation is made repeatedly. The most noticeable, with the exception of the Doug-Mallory relationship, is Lois's decision to leave her self-imposed house imprisonment in order to reach Doug in New Orleans and quickly adopt a mother-daughter relationship with Mallory. Most of this behaviour is wholly unnatural and bears little semblance to reality. As a result, there is not much in the film of any lasting resonance.
The lone bright point is the relationship between Doug and Lois, which is entirely due to the performances of, and chemistry between, Gandolfini and Leo. The way they speak to each other, look at each other, and their body language feels authentic. They prevent the film from becoming a total wreck. Gandolfini's Indianapolis accent is also impressive. There's no hint of Tony Soprano in his turn as Doug.
While Leo and Gandolfini shine, Stewart does not impress. She wears skimpy clothes, pouts, swears, screams, and that's about all she does. It's a shallow performance for a shallow role.
The audio and video transfers are both excellent. The picture is detailed, making-up for the overall lack of color in the production. The audio is not asked to do much aside from deliver dialogue and it does so clearly.
The lone extra is the obligatory and non-insightful "making-of" documentary "Creating The Rileys," featuring interviews with members of the cast and crew fawning over the film.
Welcome To The Rileys is sabotaged by a put-on story and only somewhat redeemed by the performances it contains. If a family recovering from tragedy is the viewing you're seeking, then watch the vastly superior Ordinary People.
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