Starpulse.com was invited to attend the press conference for the film out today 'Welcome to the Rileys.' It stars James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, and Melissa Leo. It is also directed by Jake Scott, who is better known for his music videos and documentaries, so this is a big step for him. It premiered in Sundance to strong reviews, and now it is ready to hit the theaters. The press conference was held in New York City and had the cast and director in attendance. They had apparently not seen one another in a long time, since they had an enthusiastic reunion outside the room first. The movie was filmed several years ago when Stewart was about eighteen, and she had not shot to superstardom for 'Twilight' yet.
Several questions were asked about the setting in New Orleans, and the cast all agreed it was a fantastic place to shoot in. It did look great on film as well, and the director definitely seemed to respect and love the setting for the story. Stewart talked about being young and placed into this serious role as a depressed and rundown teenage stripper. She went to a strip club with Scott to study the atmosphere and the dancers, and the man at the door thought she was there for an interview! She seemed to have difficulty putting into words how she exactly felt about her role and where she thought her character was going from the end of the movie, but that appeared to come from an emotional attachment she might have to Allison. Gandolfini joked about trying out a Southern accent, and he and Leo agreed they just had easy chemistry from the beginning. She said she absolutely thought his character was going to sleep with Stewart while reading the script, and she was surprised where it ended up. You and me both! Overall it was a short but energetic conference, and the cast were excited that the movie was finally coming out since it was filmed several years ago.
'Welcome to the Rileys' is about Doug Riley (Gandolfini) who seems to be just sleep walking through his life. His daughter was killed tragically at age fifteen, a weight that he and his wife have carried every since, and they've been slipping apart. Lois Riley (Melissa Leo) became a shut-in and can't leave the house. Doug finds some solace in an affair with a waitress, but sometimes breaks in him when the waitress dies unexpectantly. Soon after he goes to New Orleans for a business trip and everything changes when he meets Mallory/Allison (Stewart) at a strip club. He connects to her quickly due to her age and resemblance to his dead daughter, and she is bewildered by the fact he doesn't seem interested in her dancing for him or having sex with him. Instead he drives her home and takes care of her.
The two start a father-daughter like bond, which Mallory is uncomfortable with, but it renews life and energy in Doug. He tells his wife he is selling his business and never coming back. This spurs her into action, and she goes to New Orleans after him. At the heart of the story are grieving parents, guilt, and whether or not second chances are possible or even wanted. They try to force Mallory to adopt a new lifestyle, but does she even want it? There are strong performances on all parts, although personally Leo stands out the most as the subdued and controlled wife Lois. At first she seems to suffer silently, but as she comes out of her shell more and goes on this adventure, her character is unraveled in a beautiful way. When she joins the other two characters, the conflict really begins. A lot of people are discussing this as a break out role for Stewart, and she did well. She did do her usual type casted pouty thing at times, but there was a lot of depth to Mallory that she genuinely brought out.
'Welcome to the Rileys' is a competent film, a good film, but not really a great one. While it has solid performances and an interesting setting, there seems to be something lacking. Maybe it's that there doesn't seem anything particularly unique here. There have been other films that look at the stripper or prostitute and their struggle, and even involve someone coming into their life to 'fix' it for them. The connection with Doug trying to replace their daughter with her is particularly well done, and his firm parenting of Mallory may fix her mouth, but it doesn't fix her soul. It's well done, but there's nothing surprising about it. It doesn't push the envelope the way the buzz seemed to want it to, and it doesn't necessarily need to. It's a character piece about grieving parents finding their own ways to cope and move on, and how a troubled girl helps them do that. It's sad and emotional and wraps up neatly with no real surprises. It might not stay with you forever, but while you're in the theater you will be along for the ride and want to see where the characters are going.
'Welcome to the Rileys' is out in wide release today and rated R for sexual content and mild violence.