Welcome to the Rileys (review)

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Kristen Stewart is a New Orleans stripper and prostitute. She does not have a heart of gold. That belongs to James Gandolfini, who meets her uncute when he’s in town for a business convention and decides to not return home to whatever Midwestern dullness he’s from in order to take care of her. Not in a sugar-daddy way: in a grieving-daddy way. See, he lost his teenaged daughter a few years ago, and is obviously feeling a lack of an outlet for his paternal instincts. Meanwhile, his wife, Melissa Leo — a neurotic who refuses to leave the house, even to get the mail, but dresses up like she’s going somewhere nice anyway just to hang around — works up the nerve to get in the car and head South chasing after him… The performances all around are great: Leo (Everybody’s Fine) in particular is a goddess, as always, breathing wretched life into a character that could have been a joke; Stewart proves she’s got real chops, as she did with The Runaways, when she’s got something meatier than a vampire romance to, um, sink her teeth into; and Gandolfini (Where the Wild Things Are) exhibits more soul than we’ve seen from him before. Still: while the script, by Ken Hixon (City by the Sea) is sensitive and features some experiences of women typically unseen onscreen — there’s some nice near-mother-daughter interactions between Leo and Stewart — and director Jake Scott (British cult favorite Plunkett & Macleane) doesn’t have an exploitive eye, this is yet another wearyingly familiar story about what women can and should do for men, not about the woman themselves. And it doesn’t offer anything particularly new and insightful about ground that has been exhaustively covered previously.

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