Saturday, June 4, 2011

Welcome to the Rileys

This is the shot in "Welcome to the Rileys" that shows where
Kristen Stewart dances.

On a trip to New Orleans in October, 2008, I turned a corner and found myself in the midst of a movie shoot. One of the staff on the sidewalk told me it was a film featuring James Gandolfini, who was standing right down the street (but can’t be seen in this shot). I stood for a while and watched, then ambled down another road where, believe it or not, I saw Angelina Jolie walking along with three of her kids.
But back to the movie.
The film being shot was Welcome to the Rileys, which I rented on DVD last night. It’s the story of a middle-aged couple who have become estranged since their teen-aged daughter died in a car accident years ago. The wife has developed agoraphobia and doesn’t leave the house or mention her daughter. The father is having an affair with a waitress who suddenly dies. He travels to New Orleans for a convention and meets a teen-aged runaway prostitute who reminds him of his daughter. He calls his wife and tells her that he’s decided to stay in New Orleans.
Not surprisingly, this news forces the wife to confront her fears and leave the house to follow him. What was surprising was how much I liked her character. She seemed cold and hollow until we watched her try to leave. Instead of witnessing stark terror, tremors and an emotional breakdown (which would have been trite), we see her get in the car and not know how to adjust the seats. It’s actually a funny scene, followed by bad driving that has her crashing before she even leaves her driveway. Still, she forges on and her character becomes more and more endearing. She’s fragile but kind, and braver than expected. I found myself wishing the storyline were more about her.
When the credits rolled, I waited to see who the actress was (because I hadn’t read the case). It was Melissa Leo! I’d had no idea. Her character was so different than the one she played in The Fighter and she looked so different than she did at the Oscars. I was impressed.  She was an actress I didn’t think I’d like, but have now reconsidered.
James Gandolfini was – James Gandolfini. He never seems any different from character to character. And the teenaged prostitute, Kristen Stewart, was an edgier Bella, but equally as unlikeable. I liked the movie, but mostly because of Leo’s performance and the fact that I felt a personal tie after stumbling upon the street corner where the movie was filmed. I’ll save the Angelina story for another day.


  1. Dood, what a trip! We didn't have any celebrity sightings in NOLA, although we did eat at Emeril's restaurant in the Warehouse district. Sigh...

    I heard about the movie and was wondering if it was any good. Thanks for discussing it.

    If you want to see Kristen Stewart not acting like Bella, check out Speak. It was pre-Twilight, and she was very good. It's based on an award-winning and controversial YA book.

  2. I agree, Kristen was better in "Speak." I liked the movie, but the book was so much better. Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite YA authors.