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Welcome to the Rileys DVD Review

Welcome to the Rileys movie poster Welcome to the Rileys

Theatrical Release: October 29, 2010 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jake Scott / Writer: Ken Hixon / Songs List

Cast: James Gandolfini (Doug Riley), Kristen Stewart (Mallory/Allison), Melissa Leo (Lois Riley), Joe Chrest (Jerry), Ally Sheedy (Harriet), Eisa Davis (Vivian Danley), Lance E. Nichols (Hamilton "Ham" Watkins), Tiffany Coty (Tara), Peggy Walton Walker (Brenda), Sharon Landry (Sharon), Kathy Lamkin (Charlene), Deneen Tyler (Parking Officer), Jack Moore (Roger)

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Tony Soprano and Bella Swan come from such different worlds, each a cultural landmark for audiences with probably little overlap. The actors who portray those disparate iconic protagonists have come together,
presumably uniting some fans of each universe, for the independent drama Welcome to the Rileys.

James Gandolfini plays Doug Riley, the owner of an Indiana plumbing business. A quiet man, Doug has been married for almost thirty years to Lois (Melissa Leo, a two-time Academy Award nominee quite possibly destined for a supporting actress win for The Fighter), a phobic shut-in. Some years back, the couple lost their 15-year-old daughter in a car accident and one can sense the lingering pain of this tragedy more easily than any feelings of mutual love.

In the film's opening moments, Doug makes nice small talk with Vivian (Eisa Davis), a pancake house waitress who we come to find out is his mistress of several years. Soon after, she dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, news Doug receives on one of his weekly post-Poker Night visits to the diner. Vivian is buried not far from Doug's daughter, to whose mourning he must privately add his lover's loss.

Down in New Orleans, Midwestern businessman and husband Doug Riley (James Gandolfini) enters into an interesting arrangement with 16-year-old runaway stripper/prostitute Mallory (Kristen Stewart).

Down in New Orleans for a business convention he invited Vivian to, the silently grieving Doug sneaks off into a seedy strip club and, to avoid being seen by work acquaintances, goes upstairs for a private lap dance from a young woman named Mallory (Kristen Stewart). Doug doesn't want the dance nor any of the prostitutional services Mallory offers. In trying just to talk to her, Doug scares off and angers Mallory. The two reunite in brighter lighting at a nearby seafood joint. More at ease there, they resume their talking, which leads to a ride home to a rough neighborhood and Doug actually spending the night at Mallory's house, where the power has been turned off.

To Mallory's surprise, Doug wants nothing to do with her sexually. But he does wish to help her, calling his wife and announcing he'll be staying in New Orleans for the time being. The unlikely pairing -- husky, decent, financially comfortable Midwestern businessman and foul-mouthed, broke, skin-and-bones 16-year-old Floridian stripper/prostitute -- remains platonic while growing stronger and more sincere. Besides using his plumbing prowess and life experience to revive the bathroom and restore electricity, Doug gives car rides and offers to give Mallory (whose real name is Allison) $100 for every night he stays at her squalid place.

Meanwhile, Lois has a couple of surprises up her sleeve, the biggest of which is that she has braved her tall fears and driven herself all the way down to New Orleans. Surprise!

Facing her agoraphobia with a cross-country drive, housewife Lois (Melissa Leo) appreciates getting hit on at a road stop. Moving from her signature Twilight Saga into edgier adult fare, Kristen Stewart plays Mallory, a broke and nearly-broken teen hooker relying on the kindness of a stranger.

Welcome to the Rileys is the second film directed by Jake Scott, the son of Ridley Scott (director of such films as Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator) and nephew of Tony Scott (director of Top Gun and many a mid-range Denzel Washington action thriller including, most recently, Unstoppable).
Though they number as two of the film's five executive producers, 45-year-old Jake is not being given a gift of Will and Jada proportions; he has spent fifteen years directing music videos for the likes of U2, R.E.M., Oasis, The Cranberries, The Smashing Pumpkins, and The Rolling Stones. Clearly, his interests and intentions are far from those of his epic and spectacle-minded forebears.

Jake brings a steady hand to Welcome's intimate, raw screenplay by Ken Hixon (Inventing the Abbotts, City by the Sea). Young and creepy ears might perk up at the sound of Kristen Stewart playing a teenaged stripper/hooker, but this isn't a movie the slightest bit interested in playing that card for lurid thrills. Sure, you do get Stewart, just 18 at the time of filming, cursing up a storm, talking about her "cooter", and what she will and won't do sexually. But the film isn't looking to shock or showcase skin; the damaged youth adds to the subject matter many will find too dreary. It is out of this darkness that the movie finds its light, neither overplaying nor ignoring the obvious psychological significance of Doug (and later Lois) assuming parental roles towards the runaway barely older than their daughter lived to be.

Doug's charitable disposition to Mallory/Allison never comes across as selfishly motivated or morally superior. This isn't The Blind Side, providing warm, fuzzy feelings an instantly closed book on poverty and hardship. Doug, Allison, and Lois all have their combatable demons and they're ones the film explores thoughtfully and tastefully. This drama will inevitably depress some viewers. It's striking how the mere setup to its un-Hollywood resolution invites cringes you aren't expecting. You're not cringing at how the film chooses to play out (or not play out, depending on your fears), but how life has a way of, for better or worse, restoring order. Acknowledging that visceral response recognizes that, for all its uncomfortable moments and heated exchanges, the time spent in rundown New Orleans is supremely therapeutic.

Stars or not, Welcome to the Rileys received a minimal release to just eleven American theaters last fall. Samuel Goldwyn Films assumed the film from Apparition, who had acquired it after a well-received showing at Sundance but fatally fumbled on the distribution of Stewart's other minimally-seen 2010 Sundance indie The Runaways. As Samuel Goldwyn's video partner, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings Rileys to DVD and Blu-ray next week, as it brought Runaways last summer.

Welcome to the Rileys (2010) DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.95
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.95 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Welcome to the Rileys has kind of a grungy look to it. Many of its scenes are dark and low-contrast. The DVD's 1.85:1 widescreen transfer presents them cleanly and clearly, but it's often (and presumably deliberately) not very pleasing to the eye. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack also isn't something you'll be telling your friends about it. It's serviceable and no better than that. The audio has that earthy, independent film feel to it and all but the occasional score remain in the front speakers. Like the picture, the mix gets the job done without doing anything that will garner praise or discontent.

Looking look a young version of his accomplished filmmaker father Ridley Scott, director Jake Scott discusses "Creating the Rileys." The makers of "Welcome to the Rileys" like the idea of muted and colorful rectangular stills against a white background, as the menu resembles the poster and cover art.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

On both DVD and Blu-ray, the film is joined by just one bonus, the 11-minute featurette "Creating the Rileys."
This gathers comments from the cast and crew about the project, their attraction to it, the enjoyment derived from working in New Orleans with one another, and the title's meaning. Though it's a pretty standard piece, it is welcome and passable as the only inclusion.

As is now the sad norm for Sony, "Previews" leads not to a menu but a repeat of the handful of ads that play at disc insertion. They promote Blu-ray, Fireflies in the Garden, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, The Tourist, and Nowhere Boy. Rileys' own trailer is unfortunately not provided here.

The static, silent menus further the rectangles against white design of the film's poster and cover art. The only in-case insert promotes 3D and Sony's make.believe philosophy, both sure to be of interest to the art house crowd this is destined for.

As Doug Riley, James Gandolfini woke up this morning and got himself a girl. Lois (Melissa Leo) has her maternal side resurface by helping "Mallory" (Kristen Stewart) try on a bra...every teenaged girl's favorite mother-daughter activity.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Boasting strong performances and an engaging script, Welcome to the Rileys proves to be an interesting drama. Many will find the movie's worlds too somber and its wounds too painful, but this seemed anything but dark and hopeless to me. For its meaty acting and emotional honesty, Rileys deserves a look.

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Welcome to the Rileys Songs List): Dr. John - "The Honeydripper", The Kills - "U.R.A. Fever", Ying Yang Twins - "Jigglin", Shiny Toy Guns - "Le Disko", "English Suite No. 3 in G Minor: Gavotte 1", The Storyville Stompers - "Just a Little While to Stay Here", Christian Almiron - "Dr. A", Lil Ru - "Nasty Song", Kitty Daisy and Lewis - "Going Up the Country", Odetta - "Go Down, Sunshine", Joe Simon - "Teenager's Prayer", Dr. John - "New Island Midnight", The Orchestra Ambros Seelos - "Passera"

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Reviewed January 28, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Samuel Goldwyn Films, Destination Films, Argonaut Pictures, Scott Free Productions, and 2011 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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