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The Films Of The LA Film Fest: 'Welcome To The Rileys'

Piya Sinha-Roy, Holly Butcher |
July 6, 2010 | 2:36 p.m. PDT

Entertainment Editor and Senior Music Editor


'Welcome to The Rileys'

(USA, 2010, 110 mins)

What happens when you take Bella Swan out of the vampire-laden forests and put her into New Orleans? She becomes an underage prostitute of course!

In all seriousness, ‘Welcome to The Rileys’ explores some deep and troubling issues that underlie many families. Kristen Stewart makes every attempt to ditch her Bella Swan character with this film, and in parts, she achieves it. Playing a 16-year-old runaway prostitute named Mallory in New Orleans certainly calls for some heavy mental preparation, and Stewart did her research well, spending time with dancers and prostitutes in Louisiana. But despite the foul language and pole-dancing skills that Stewart worked hard to depict accurately, at times her character is too easily trusting for someone in her position, thus giving the film its ‘Hollywood’ glossover. 

James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo both brilliantly inhabit their characters as Doug and Lois Riley, grieving over the loss of their only daughter Aemily and then trying to resurrect her through helping Mallory.  Leo plays a mother trapped in her own house from fear and grief, and her sudden decision to snap out of the haze has some amusing and inspiring connotations. Gandolfini’s character has to deal with the fresh loss of his lover, thus meeting a teenage dancer in New Orleans leads him to make his own sudden decision to help her. Throw in Mallory’s own tragedy as we discover she lost her mother when she was a child, and you get a story of three individuals brought together under the red lights of New Orleans. 

The chemistry from the leads is interesting, and at times, very real. It is Gandolfini and Stewart’s connection that is perhaps the most engaging, as both of them deal with their frustrations with themselves and each other. And as for the location, director Jake Scott showcases the seedy underground of New Orleans hand-in-hand with its raw and almost romantic sexuality. There is something incredibly free about the city, which is integral to how the characters react when they arrive in New Orleans. 

But is this movie meant to be a drama or a dark comedy? Scott sometimes disguises the message of the film and you can come away with a slightly conflicted conclusion. Either way, the story told is a touching one, and whether you cry or laugh, it’s a film with some deep moments. 


Verdict: Rent it, unless you’re a Twi-hard who wants to see an almost-fully exposed K-Stew on the big screen. 

Ranking: 3/5

- Piya Sinha-Roy


Sometimes life is a story about losing. But then sometimes losing is a story about connecting. And ‘Welcome To The Rileys’, directed by Jake Scott, is a story about both.

Parents Doug and Lois Riley (James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo) of Indianapolis lost their 15-year-old daughter Emily in a car accident. Similarly, the runaway, underaged prostitute Mallory (Kristen Stewart) lost her mother in a car crash. There's the connection.

For the Rileys, their loss created a rift between them. Doug took solace in a diner waitress and his work, while Lois became crippled with anxiety that would not let her leave the house. Doug then travels to New Orleans on a business trip without his wife, and meets the 16-year-old, grungy exotic dancer Mallory. Naturally, he sees his deceased daughter in the troubled teen and yearns to protect her, and they form a father-daughter-esque relationship. 

What doesn't work about the film is that the story is too convenient. The first person Doug interacts with in New Orleans is Mallory, a girl the same age as his daughter would be, who is in need of two parents. Also, it is slightly unbelievable the way Lois accepts the whole situation. She too, reaches out to Mallory as a parent figure.

Then there is the fact that the movie doesn't seem to decide if it is a dark comedy or a serious drama. Some of the lines and actions have an obvious comedic flare (Lois crashing her car into the basketball hoop), while others are just uncomfortable (Mallory sobbing into the bathroom with some type of infection to a startled Lois).  

However, apart from the flaws, 'Rileys' is enjoyable. All three leads perform greatly. Gandolfini and Stewart play off each other very well as patriarch and sassy teenager. They time each remark so naturally and their on-screen affection shines. (Of course, Stewart is right in her element portraying an angsty, brooding female.) 

And Leo masters the suffering housewife exceptionally. She holds herself rigidly throughout the film, giving the impression that Lois is a proper woman who refuses to showcase her emotions. Yet we see her near several breakdowns as she tries to maintain her dignity. 

Together, they are cast perfectly, each actor as believable as the next, thanks to a well written script by Ken Hixon. (Hixon was inspired to write 'Rileys' after visiting New Orleans and encountering a young woman working as an adult entertainer.) Even if at times unbelievable, the story is heartwarming, upsetting and dramatic.


Verdict: Watch it to see Kristen Stewarts play a foul-mouthed exotic dancer who sometimes bares it all.

Rating: 3 / 5

- Holly Butcher


Reach Entertainment Editor Piya Sinha-Roy here.

Reach Senior Music Editor Holly Butcher here.



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