For all the men who've ever thought about skipping that lap dance and adopting the stripper instead, "Welcome to the Rileys" is for you. For all the lonely housewives who've worried their husbands might be cheating on the road, "Welcome to the Rileys" suggests a feel-good alternative. Nothing short of preposterous, Jake Scott's film imagines a grieving couple (James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo) who play surrogate parents to an underage stripper ("Twilight's" Kristen Stewart) and spins it for the "Blind Side" crowd. But don't expect Christians to flock to this Good Samaritan tale in the same way.
With a cast like this, buyers are sure to be interested, although writer Ken Hixon's story is anything but an easy sell, especially given Scott's almost tediously self-serious treatment of the material. Considering he's the scion of Ridley Scott (and nephew to ADD artiste Tony Scott), the helmer makes the unexpected decision of drawing out his narrative. The sluggish pace serves to spotlight poignant scenes, but mostly feels as if the Rileys' family tragedy has left their 30-year marriage in a state of suspended animation.
During a depressive funk, Indiana plumbing supply salesman Doug (Gandolfini) leaves housebound wife Lois (Leo) behind and stumbles into a New Orleans strip bar, he meets a 16-year-old pole dancer, Mallory (Stewart), who looks just enough like their dead daughter to unleash his paternal instincts. Where the "Twilight" movies try to hide Stewart's pimples, here, those natural imperfections (plus a few bruises and suicide-attempt scars painted in for good measure) suit the character just fine. Hiding behind raccoon-eye mascara and electrical-tape pasties, Stewart is the perfect wretch, utterly convincing as a lost girl leveraging her sexuality to compensate for her complete powerlessness.
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