Kristen Stewart is a stripper. That should be enough — or at least a good place to start. But it’s not.
Welcome to the Rileys is an indie drama about a married couple, Doug (James Gandolfini) and Lois (Melissa Leo), who share a house but not much else. Downbeat Doug drowns his sorrows in an active social life — regularly playing poker with the guys, followed by illicit sex with a waitress. Lois has gone the opposite direction; she’s agoraphobic and can’t step foot outside.
Their marriage is miserable.
Add in an out-of-town business meeting in exotic New Orleans, and you’ve got the basics that will lead a middle-aged guy to an awkward meeting with a stripper. That’s fine first-draft material, but it lacks the complexity needed to make this film sparkle.
No amount of great acting can fix a weak script. And twice as much mediocre acting surely won’t plaster over the imperfections.
Gandolfini buries his Jersey accent under a Midwestern drawl, and you almost forget that he used to play Tony Soprano. Also, his transition from woeful walrus to do-gooder is jarring. The speed at which his character adopts an arbitrary set of moral guidelines is head-spinning.
But that may not be his fault. Mallory, the siren of the VIP room, is meant to be a teenager. Even with over-sized clothing and overacted petulance, Kristen Stewart can’t bring the required youthfulness. We need her presence in this den of sin to be shocking because of her age, not because of her bruises, scars and sunken eyes. Instead, she’s 20. And she looks it.
This film does have its bright spots. Leo nails her role — almost to a fault — illuminating the grief of the hurt housewife with painfully long silences. The desire to reach through the screen and shake sense into her is powerful.
Director Jake Scott takes the cameras into rundown residential neighborhoods, providing a look at the real New Orleans. But in the end, the best thing on the disc is an 11-minute featurette of interviews, backstage footage and clips. (Rated R)