I saw 'Welcome to the Rileys' at last year's Sundance Film Festival. I remember walking into it thinking, "Oh, great, Kristen Stewart is playing another angst-ridden teenager." Then I remember walking out of it thinking, "Yes, she did play another angst-ridden teenager, but this time I thoroughly enjoyed it."
Even though Stewart's name, and the fact that she was playing a stripper, was the main draw to this movie, she's actually overshadowed by stellar performances from both James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo.
The plot is simple enough. Doug Riley (Gandolfini) and his wife Lois (Leo) have recently lost their daughter in a car accident. They've slowly drifted apart. Doug spends most of his time playing poker with his buddies and having an affair with a local waitress. Lois has become agoraphobic and won't even leave the house to get the paper from the driveway. They barely talk to each other.
This isn't one of those strained marriages where they yell nonstop at each other. Instead they both suffer in silence. You can tell that they still love each other, but since the loss of their child, they seem to act like there's nothing left to live for.
Doug heads on down to New Orleans for a work convention. He visits a strip club, but isn't actually interested in the strippers. Perhaps it's just another place to drown his sorrows. That's where he meets Mallory (Stewart). She gyrates her hips in front of him and asks him if he wants to go to the "private room." Doug doesn't want to until he sees a pack of guys from the convention and then decides it might be better that he's not seen. So, he obliges and they head to the room. Doug isn't interested in Mallory stripping for him. He's like the anti-Tony Soprano. He's just about the nicest guy you'll ever meet.
Doug soon realizes that Mallory is definitely not as old as she's letting on. She's living in squalor, has hardly any money, and spends her nights as a prostitute. He makes it his mission to help her. Perhaps he's filling the void left by his daughter, or maybe he's just finding something else to occupy his time.
Just when you think this story is going to be about Doug and Mallory, and how she helps him cope with the loss of his daughter, Lois enters the picture. When Lois ends up in New Orleans the entire dynamic of the movie changes. Melissa Leo is a special actress and she steals the movie right out from under the two big name stars.
It's heart warming to see these two parents slip so easily back into parental roles as they try to care for Mallory. Watching them and their marriage transform is beautiful and fulfilling. What at first you think is a movie about a couple trying to help a poor young girl out of the gutter, quickly becomes a film about how a marriage can be saved no matter what obstacles stand in its way.
The 1080p Blu-ray transfer for 'Welcome to the Rileys' represents, to the best of my knowledge, the way the film looked when I first saw it at Sundance. That doesn't mean this is one of the best looking Blu-rays out there, but it's an accurate representation of what I saw in the theater.
The daytime scenes feature richly detailed colors. Fine detail on faces is also rendered nicely. Stewart looks haggard, and as the camera zooms in on her face, we see that the years of living on her own working strip clubs and back alleys have certainly taken their toll. She's also covered in reddish bruises that are perfectly visible, adding to the already dreadful backstory of this young girl.
Blacks, on the other hand, are where the transfer comes up a little flat. Faces and objects are swallowed up by crushing shadows. Delineation is touch and go. In the strip club, where there's still some light, shadows are crisp. When the movie switches to a distinctly black scene, like when Doug smokes his cigarettes in a darkened garage, then the crushing shadows take over. On the bright side, I didn't notice any compression noise or artifacting that would otherwise detract from viewing.
For a low-budget drama, this is a good looking Blu-ray transfer. It has its holdups, but does represent what I saw in the theaters when it premiered.
'Welcome to the Rileys' is a talkative affair, so it's vital that all the dialogue be clearly intelligible. Thankfully, the dialogue is piped clearly through the center channel. Directionality works perfectly whenever characters or events happen off screen. When Doug's friends blow into the strip club, the side channels accurately depict where they are.
LFE isn't a constant visitor, but during the club scenes, where bass-laden music is played in the back ground, the subwoofer does a great job creating the requisite bass. Ambient noise seems to be lacking though. When it comes to the busy streets of New Orleans, or the busy strip club, the rear channels seem oddly silent.
Like the video, this audio presentation suffices for a lower budget film, but isn't anywhere near demo-worthy.
'Welcome to the Rileys' is a pleasant, heart-warming movie about a couple who try to help a young girl. Watching Doug and Lois work through their differences and try to patch together their own marriage is admirable. These are courageous characters. Their story is simple and charming. The video and audio make do with the lower budget quality of the movie. There's only one special feature here, and it's just a promo piece. With that said, this one comes recommended. It's a great little independent drama that needs to be seen.