Review in a Hurry: Sad-sack plumbing contractor Doug (James Gandolfini) has been having an affair with a waitress ever since his daughter died. But when the waitress suddenly dies too, he's off to a New Orleans convention, where he finds hooker/stripper Mallory (Kristen Stewart) and decides to play father figure. Standard enough stuff, but what makes the movie better than average are the antics of Doug's agoraphobic wife Lois (Melissa Leo) back home.
The Bigger Picture: "Kristen Stewart as a hooker, directed by the son of Ridley Scott" sounds like a Hollywood pitch any studio would buy, and it may well lure copious amounts of lustful lads into the theater. They might be disappointed (Stewart wears skimpy outfits, but that's as far as that goes), or they could come out realizing that, hey, movies with well-drawn characters who don't do much except repair personal relationships...those can be kinda cool, too.
Needless to say, director Jake Scott is no copycat of either his dad or his uncle Tony. Settings are realistic, takes are long, attention spans are rewarded...he'd better be careful, or the family might disown him. Gandolfini, playing a character from Indiana, is saddled with an unfortunate Southern accent, as occasionally happens when a director not from this country isn't up on U.S. regional nuances. But though it doesn't exactly improve as the movie goes on, it becomes more innocuous as the actor commits.
As a runaway-turned-sex-worker, Stewart gives the kind of raw performance those of us who'd practically fallen asleep during her comatose Twilight line readings forgot she was capable of. Perhaps her experience as a child actor was fraught with equivalent perils, but whatever she's tapping into here, it clearly hits her nerves, and ours.
While she and Gandolfini are the bigger-name stars here, it's the film's "B plot" that really delights. Melissa Leo's Lois, grieving in a totally different way than Doug, hasn't left the house since their daughter died, but when she must choose between her husband and her fears, a nicely wacky journey ensues. The scene where she tries to figure out the various electrical devices in a modern car is a brilliant bit of subtle physical comedy, and should ring true to anyone who's ever gone from a stick shift to a more updated vehicle without adequate preparation.