Sundance 2010 Review: WELCOME TO THE RILEYS

James Wallace

by: James Wallace
October 29th, 2010

Editor's Note: This review was originally published on February 3rd, 2010.

Rating: 1.5/5

Writer: Ken Hixon
Director: Jake Scott
Actors: Kristen Stewart, James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo

WELCOME THE RILEYS tells the tale of a married couple stuck in a longtime rut after losing their teenage daughter in a horrible accident nine years prior. Doug Riley (James Gandolfini) seeks the love of another woman as he is no longer able to connect with his wife (Melissa Leo), who is cold and unemotional to the point where she can’t even leave the house to get the mail.

While on a business trip in New Orleans, Doug meets a not-even-barely-legal stripper and freelance prostitute, named Mallory (Kristen Stewart). Coincidentally, Mallory happens to bear a striking resemblance to Doug’s daughter, causing the man to feel for the girl. He cares for Mallory so much that he sells his company, calls his wife informing her that his stay in New Orleans will be extended and proceeds to secretly move in with the girl, paying her $100 a day to sleep on her couch and serve as her pseudo-sugar daddy...without the sex (because that is what would make this whole thing weird, right?). But wifey doesn’t take kindly to that, causing her to overcome her phobia, jump in the car, and drive cross-country as a gesture that love is still alive in their relationship. And what she finds when she gets there is more than she bargained for.

Which is exactly what you get with WELCOME TO THE RILEYS. On the surface, it would appear to be just another family drama of love lost and loved ones lost. Instead, the film is as laughable, ill-plausible, and straight up ludicrous as a film in this genre can get. I understand this is a time for feel-good dramas, showing the best of the human heart, but this just expects too much one’s emotions.

The film asks the viewer to believe in its story and its characters, and yet none of them, or their actions are plausible. That a grown man would sell his company that he worked his life to build to move into a near condemned house to live with a young troubled teen just because he feels sorry for her? Furthermore, that his wife would be okay with it, and delusional enough, to the point that she too ends up moving in the house, creating an extremely dysfunctional family out of the hopes to get back to the function they once had. All of this to eventually not say anything in its commentary at the end, because the wild beast of dysfunction cannot be tamed. (This being Mallory, who is unable to operate in anything other than chaos which she has known her whole life and thus flees from love).

It doesn’t help that the performances in the film feel like caricatures of “real people.” Gandolfini’s silly southern drawl seems in place just to separate him from the brooding figure we often known him as; while Leo is so robotic for most of the film that when she does show emotion it feels over-the-top and forced. I will save you from the description of their love scene. Let’s just leave it at the dialogue that goes something along the lines of “Did you take your medicine? Because you’re going to have a headache after we make love.”

At least Stewart seems to leave behind the training from her “tousle the hair, bite the lip, look as awkward as humanly possible” school of acting …for the most part that is. In place, we get the actress’ attempt to be vulgar and edgy, describing what she will and won’t do and how much she will do it for. I never thought I’d say this, but I’ll take the hair flip and lip bite any day.

In the end, WELCOME TO THE RILEYS sets out to be one of those stories of humanity at its best trying to help humanity at its worst. Unfortunately, all you get is a mediocre film telling a mediocre story of humanity at its most unfeasible.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I understand a bulk of this review is based upon whether the film is believable and the characters within, and their actions, are plausible to which many could and may argue “Well, AVATAR (or fill in the blank with your own film) isn’t believable but it is still a good movie!” To this I would both agree and disagree.

Yes, I agree that AVATAR is not believable, which does not automatically disqualify it from being a good film. But this is because AVATAR is based on fantasy.

A film like WELCOME TO THE RILEYS is based on seemingly real people in seemingly real situations. And yet, my criticism of it comes from the idea that its story and characters are so unreal and unbelievable in their motives and actions that it negatively affects the film to the point that it is just downright silly.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

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  • boss

    A really good description of the movie. Thanks. I had the same opinion about the movie but most previews don’t really analyse the story and take it as it’s shown.

  • Justin85

    your review SUCKS!

  • Chase Whale

    Well that's not very nice. What about it “SUCKS” so bad?

  • Justin85

    your review SUCKS!

  • Chase Whale

    Well that's not very nice. What about it “SUCKS” so bad?

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