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Gandolfini, Leo star In Intelligent 'Rileys"

Small indie film surprises audience with realism and heart.

Not giving anything  away with the title here, Welcome to the Rileys is a sweet look at both a father-daughter-like relationship and an examination of an older couple and how they learn to come back together after a tragedy.

The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini plays Doug, a businessman who travels to New Orleans for work and while there, stumbles across a very young stripper/prostitute.  Having lost a daughter in her teens, Doug is immediately drawn towards this troubled young woman, in a completely non-sexual way.

 After finding out that he was using her as a replacement daughter, Mallory, the young girl (who is 16), tries to break away from the friendship. 

In no way is this film at all predictable.  It does not have a “Hollywood” ending, meaning not everything is all smiles and perfection at the end.  The characters here are troubled when the film begins and troubled at the end.  But, there is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, which is not there early on. 

The relationship between Mallory and Doug is fabulously convincing.  He never sees her as a sexual being, which is something he could easily do since she’s always offering herself to him, especially early on. 

He is deeply moved by Mallory’s desperation and only wants to help her.  And in helping her, he helps himself heal over the death of his daughter and the scarred relationship with his wife, Lois. 

Lois is his perfect counterpart.  He is trying to find someone to care for.  Lois is trying to find a way to move on.  They both could and should find solace in each other, but that is not what either of them do.  They look for help and hope in other people and other situations.  Only at the end, do they see each other as a possible way to survive. 

This is a movie that really could have gone off on the “clichéd” path…into either a sexual relationship between Mallory and Doug or having the ending be the three of them all happy and together at home.  Instead, what we have here is a strong, well-made and very well-acted film about three people who might survive by relying on each other.  Then again, they might not.  This film leaves it up to the audience to decide, which most filmmakers are not brave enough to try.  Give us credit, Hollywood.  Some of us can think on our own!  A must see film those of us who like to use our brains!

Welcome to the Rileys: 2010, rated R, 110 minutes, directed by Jake Scott, starring James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo and Kristen Stewart.  The Niles Public Library owns this title on DVD. 

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