At first glance, "Welcome to the Rileys" - the feature film debut from Jake Scott, son of Ridley and nephew of Tony - seems like a warmed-over casserole of cliches.
A middle-age man, stuck in an emotionally cauterized marriage, seeks rejuvenation in the company of a stripper/prostitute who, underneath her foul-mouthed exterior, isn't so bad after all.
Yet the movie is a reminder that good, or at least intriguing, things can come in what seem to be predictable packages. Informed by a couple of understated yet powerful performances and a twist on the usual hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold storyline, the flawed yet somberly powerful "Welcome to the Rileys" ends up packing an unexpected punch.
James Gandolfini is Doug Riley, an Indiana businessman whose relationship with wife Lois (Melissa Leo) has turned numb since the death of their teenage daughter in a car crash. While in New Orleans for a convention, he drowns his troubles at a local strip club only to find his fatherly instincts awakened by one of the very young strippers, Mallory (Kristen Stewart).
Abruptly, he decides to stay in New Orleans and help her clean up her circumstances. Meanwhile, back home, Lois - turned agoraphobic in her grief - struggles with not only with the loss of her daughter but possibly her husband and her entire life.
What she decides to do may be unrealistic but it ends up giving the story added heft. But what really makes the film are Gandolfini and Leo, who play their parts with an exquisite sense of quiet pain.
Never mind that the film should have been shorter or that Stewart, a long way from her days as the tortured "Twilight" teen, is a bit one-note.
"Welcome to the Rileys" is a welcome surprise.
WELCOME TO THE RILEYS 3 stars (out of 5)