James Gandolfini describes himself as a “260-pound Woody Allen,” nothing like the mafioso he played on the HBO series “The Sopranos.”
In “Welcome to the Rileys,” which screens tonight at the Austin Film Festival, he creates yet another memorable character - but one who probably mirrors his real-life personality better than Tony Soprano.
He’s Doug Riley, a middle-age, middle-class married man who is estranged from his wife, Lois. They still live together, but it’s not an intimate relationship. Lois (the always brilliant Melissa Leo) has retreated inside their home ever since their daughter died in a traffic accident.
When Doug attends a boring convention in New Orleans, he slips away from the shop talk of his fellow professionals and ducks into a strip bar, where he meets Mallory (Kristen Stewart of “Twilight” fame.)
She’s a 17-year-old runaway who thinks she’s going to make a few extra bucks by making out with the sad-sack Doug. But life takes an unexpected twist when Doug accompanies her to her ramshackle home and, rather than have sex, begins to fix the place up, as if he were her father.
Director Jake Scott, working from a script by Ken Hixon, creates a touching portrait of grief, loneliness and love in “Welcome to the Rileys.” It’ll be one of today’s highlights when it screens at 4 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre.