Welcome to the Rileys
Directed by Jake Scott
Starring James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo, Ally Sheedy
“Welcome to the Rileys” takes a premise that sounds like a bad gag — married man befriends a teenage stripper — and spins it into a powerful character drama.
Jake Scott (Ridley’s son) directs sensitively, with an eye for nuance and an absence of exploitation, and the downtrodden post-Katrina New Orleans setting amplifies the grim stasis that’s overtaken the lives of protagonists Doug Riley (James Gandolfini) and Mallory (Kristen Stewart).
The joy has seeped out of Doug’s marriage to Lois (Melissa Leo) after the tragic death of their daughter. The Indianan — a strong-willed, dignified man in the Big Easy on business — finds a new purpose in helping shape up Mallory, a scarred 17-year-old spending her days in a crumbling slum and her nights performing scantily clad in a seedy club.
These are complex, believable characters, wholly deglamorized and bestowed with the layered complications that define real life. The actors bring great conviction to their parts, deftly conveying deep-seated emotions without veering toward easy, obvious choices.
As the characters’ lives are renewed, and a shared sense of hope in the future is reborn, it’s hard to be anything but deeply moved, no matter any initial skepticism.