Welcome to the Rileys is a "Very Intimate Portrait"

4 out of 5 STARS

As the son of one of the most famous filmmakers in the world, some would think that you would have an easier time at becoming a filmmaker yourself than say the average guy on the street. Jake Scott, son of Ridley Scott (Gladiator) is releasing his second feature film ten years after his first, Plunkett & Macleane which was a disaster in the eyes of the press. While Plunkett & Macleane admittedly has many, many flaws, you wonder if this first time filmmaker was not the son of Ridley Scott if he would have been judged in such a harsh manor.

My guess is the film would have received bad reviews and then Jake Scott and his film would have been quickly forgotten, rather than the repeated lashings he received in the press.

Either way I am happy that he has dusted himself off and decided to give it another try, after all we learn the most from our failures. Welcome to the Riley’s is the absolute polar opposite to Plunkett & Maclean, the Riley’s is an intimate portrait of three characters who are coping with the tragedy of death. The Riley’s, Doug (James Gandolfini) and Lois (Melissa Leo) are trying to make it through daily life after the loss of their daughter. Doug a plumbing contractor suffers silently while Lois has locked herself in her own house. Doug while on a business trip to New Orleans meets Malory (Kristen Stewart) a runaway stripper who may be sixteen. Doug is drawn to Malory and the memory of his daughter and decides to save her.

Jake Scott sticks to small intimate shots for the film, despite the tempting backdrop of New Orleans. He is able to create a very intimate portrait of these three characters, while avoiding the pitfalls of the material by keeping the film form being too melodramatic. The story could have been filled with repeated scenes of sobbing but thankfully this is not the route Scott has taken. . Ken Hixon’s screenplay instead unfolds much like real life, with out a clean tidy package at the end, it is truer to life. The characters are kept real, their reactions are not magnified for the sake of the camera. The result is a connection with each character that hooks you into the film.

The casting for the film is simply brilliant. Gandolfini just has to smile and you like the guy, this was always a mystery to me, especially as I would find myself oddly drawn to his character Tony Soprano, who despite the many acts of violence he inflicts on screen is someone I like. It is that Ganolfini charm that makes the misguided Doug so lovable even as he shacks up with a sixteen year old runaway. Jake Scott has managed to captures the raw performances of James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart.

Kristen Stewart may be on the road to redemption as a credible actress after her repeated role as Bella in the Twilight series. I could not decide whether I should credit Gandofini with her improved performance, as he is on screen with her almost the entire time. But to be fair Stewart deserves to have her performance noted and as we have seen in The Yellow Handkerchief and The Runaways this year there are possibilities for Stewart beyond Twilight and perhaps a depth to her abilities to be discovered. Stewart has raised the bar.

Melissa Leo gives one of the most powerful yet subtle performances of her career. It is through very small gestures and the use of few words that she is able to convey a mothers morning and sense of guilt surrounding her daughters death. Her performance is riveting.

As with Scott’s choice to keep the camera angle intimate he also smartly makes this choice with the films score. While New Orleans is a city filled with fun party music Welcome to the Riley’s is not. Scott entrusts the score to Marc Streitenfeld who creates a score that is quite and full of emotion and subtle enough to not undermine the story.

I am so pleased that Scott decided to “have another go at it” Welcome to the Riley’s is one of the few films I have chosen to watch twice this year. Let’s hope we do not have to wait another ten years for the next one.

Source /via: WTTR Saturday Thanks!

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