Review: 'Welcome to the Rileys' is "Challenging and Provocative"

“Welcome To The Rileys,” is a stirring drama about three people’s journey through tragedy to a life filled with opportunity and optimism. Starring James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo, the film tracks the life of married couple Doug (Gandolfini) and Lois Riley (Leo) as the struggle to overcome eight years of grief over the death of their teenage daughter in a freak car accident.

Lois thinks she caused the accident by being too overbearing a mother, and Doug does not disabuse her of that line of thinking. The two battle major depression and live like emotionally dead zombies until they meet the 17-year old stripper named Mallory (Stewart).

While at a business convention in New Orleans, Doug wanders into a strip joint ahead of his colleagues and encounters Mallory, who propositions him like she’s been working the streets for over 10 years, which is possible given her life story. Because Mallory reminds Doug of his deceased daughter in age and appearances only, he tries to take her under his wing and provide her with the parenting she clearly never had.

Their relationship causes strain in Doug’s marriage, but forces Lois out of the catatonia she’d found herself in.
The Riley’s experience with Mallory reinvigorates their relationship and puts both them and Mallory on a new path for living.
Scripted by Ken Hixon (“City by the Sea” and “Inventing the Abbotts”),“Welcome To The Rileys” skillfully navigates the dark underside of post-Katrina New Orleans and the child sex-trade, delicately peppering the film with humor as it ultimately drives the film’s theme home.

While the film may prove too dark and gritty for Stewarts male fans, her female fans are sure to appreciate her work in this challenging and provocative role. After rapping up her stint as Joan Jett in “The Runaways,” to prepare for her role as a stripper and child prostitute, Stewart took pole dancing lessons, visited strip clubs and didn’t wash her hair for five weeks. Her appearance was so convincingly trashy, she said, that when she walked into a club off Sunset Boulevard, the owner offered her a job. The actress persuaded him to let her talk to the dancers to get insight about their lives.

“The only thing that I can figure out is that something most of the time was taken from them,” she said. “Like, you can’t hurt me more than I’ve already been hurt. And you can’t abuse me more than I abuse myself every day, so I’m gonna take from you. I’m gonna take your money.”

Director Jake Scott, who snagged Stewart before she began filming “Twilight,” says Stewart was right for the lead. “What I got from her in that movie was this vulpine, wily, kind of fox-like quality,” he said. “She’s got a way of looking at people that I found really compelling.” Stewart “has become more confident in the two years he’s known her and hasn’t let celebrity warp her identity,” he added. “She’s still Kristen to me — this kid from the Valley who’s into Van Morrison and watching movies and hanging out,” he says.

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