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Film Critics: Today, December 13, winners from Dallas ForthWorthFCA, ChicagoFCA and Film Comment Magazine. Nominations from HoustonFCS, PhoenixCC. PhoenixFCS.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Welcome to the Rileys


Jake Scott, son of Ridley Scott, makes his first feature film with a story that has been told many times: the grieving after a son or daughter dies at young age. Still here is a bit different and quite unique as explores reactions of what seems like a damaged mature couple, with husband deciding to “adopt” a teen prostitute and help her to find order in her dysfunctional life. But main difference in this absolutely character driven narrative is the casting of James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, and (my favorite) Kristen Stewart. Let me explain.

When I learned that Gandolfini was in film wondered if I was going to see a performance that doesn’t recall me of his iconic Tony Soprano, as in many of his films he looks and behaves exactly as Tony even if character has nothing to do with The Sopranos character. Then I knew Stewart was going to be here (which is the reason why had to watch film) and wondered if she was going to be able out-perform or be an equal to Gandolfini and Leo, as only her role in Panic Room was so good performed against a great actress like Jodie Foster.

Well, Gandolfini is NOT Tony Soprano at all in this movie and his performance is good as goes to the sensitive side of human beings no matter their gender while Stewart was able to perform as good as Gandolfini and Leo.

This feature film directorial debut is a good soft drama with a story that doesn’t look forward to dramatize its characters and presents them like human beings with problems plus problematic lives that need to be fixed even when no one knows how to fix them. Story tells how Doug (Gandolfini)and Lois Riley (Leo) find their own ways to overcome the death and grieving period of her teen daughter, all triggered by Doug going to a business convention in New Orleans and meeting one night Mallory (Stewart), a pole dancer/prostitute and slowly they become odd friends. When convention is over Doug tells his wife that he will stay in New Orleans, so Lois who hasn’t been out of the house since her daughter passed away, decides to drive to New Orleans and here we have very funny moments that show how Leo can do comedy. As Lois arrives to New Orleans things start to unravel and you have to watch story to see how this nice story ends and what the sixteen-year-old girl/woman does with these two characters.

Being a character driven narrative good performances are a must and you get them out of the three actors’; but also makes film not suited for all audiences as pace is on the slowish side, there are not dramatic moments is more like as flat life evolves with its normal ups and downs, and consequently, film tends to be like a flat line. Which is not bad as there are many alike films in world cinema, but not many in American cinema; after all this is a British-American co production that looks and feels more like world cinema than an American indie.

Anyway I liked film more that what I imagined and when was over felt I had a good entertaining moment that cheered me up, which is marvelous as some American films I have seen lately were really downers. Film was in competition for the Grand Jury Prize at 2010 Sundance and was official selection at 2010 Berlinale at the Panorama section.

I do recommend film as a good soft drama that could entertain you with a good story and good performances by good actors.

Enjoy!!

Watch trailer @MOC

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