(Jake Scott, 2010, USA)
Almost two years since premiering in the US, and most other continents for that matter, Jake (son of Ridley) Scott’s feature debut Welcome to the Rileys sees James Gandolfini play Doug Riley, a mild-mannered businessman stuck in somewhat of a rut. After having lost their beloved daughter eight years previously, Doug and wife Lois (Melissa Leo) share a pale imitation of a marriage; distant and unapproachable, the two live like strangers in their own well furnished home, clearly still fractured from the unspeakable trauma of losing a child. However, whilst on a business trip to New Orleans, Doug encounters Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a lonely, streetwise stripper with a foul mouth, who compels the Riley’s to take her under their wing, fixing up her dilapidated household and, perhaps, learning how to rekindle their derailed marriage in the process.
Offering very little in the way of narrative surprises, Welcome to the Rileys takes clichéd storytelling and predictability and runs with it, padding out a 110 minute running time with a story that has the ability to be compelling if it wasn’t for the fact that we have seen it all before. Executive produced by brothers Ridley and Tony; the team of Scott’s have attracted a highly watchable cast in the form of Gandolfini, Leo and Stewart, the latter of which capably holds her own against the two seasoned veterans. In fact, the weakest link in both the cast and the film is, surprisingly, Leo, who, despite attempting to break away from the usually sour characters she has so famously played, from her Oscar-winning performance in this years’ The Fighter to 2008’s icy indie Frozen River, ends up delivering a purposefully reserved but ultimately featureless recital of a woman who cant bring herself to leave the house and save her ailing marriage. Gandolfini, on the other hand, injects a likeable though fairly passive quality to his character, effectively a significantly toned down version of Tony Soprano, arguably his career’s most noteworthy role.
Taking the derivative story arc of two lost souls attempting to heal their anguish by seeking the solace of a down on their luck substitute, who, in this case, bares more than a few visual similarities to the Riley’s late daughter, writer Ken Hixon has created an ultimately lopsided world where, in time honoured tradition, sorrow lurks behind the bourgeois sheen that is the Riley’s life. Starting strongly by depicting the sparseness of Doug and Lois’s relationship, Welcome to the Rileys quickly loses its footing by attempting to be too many things at once; an occasionally engaging study of broken harmony that works, deflated by an increasingly melodramatic, twee and unremarkable redemptive tale that ends, unsurprisingly, far too neatly.