Friday, 24 August 2012

Welcome to the Rileys

James Gandolfini
came to international attention through his award winning role as Tony Soprano in the six season series which Ihave watched with continuous episode showing over the past year. I was therefore interested to see him in the film Welcome to the Rileys which I viewed at the end of July 2012. While he is Tony in several mannerisms and through his bulky being, he plays a very different, interesting and sympathy arousing character who has been unable to have normal marital relations with his wife who has been unable to leave her home since the death of their daughter when only fourteen years or so of age. He consoles himself with a waitress although it is evident they share a bed for a few hours it is not clear they have penetrative sex. He offers to take her on a trip to New Orleans to attend a business convention attending by his business partner/manager. Before this she suddenly dies and this is event which tips over the edge in his grief.

New Orleans before and since Katrina remains a city where men go to conventions and enjoy the drink, the jazz and the sex and in this instance Gandolfini encounters a under age stripper prostitute no more than his daughter, said to be sixteen in the film. For a brief moment I thought this was to turn out another Breezy in which middle aged William Holden picks up and has an affair with a teenage hippie kind of girl. Welcome to the Rileys ( no relation to the Mother Riley films by the way) is a very different film in which Gandolfini follows the girl to where she is living in a slum and offers her $100 a day to live in the same house which he cleans up and escorts her to and from work. He announces he is giving up his business and tells his wife he had decided to stay in New Orleans for a while.

Before leaving on the trip she, played by Kirsten Stewart, discovers the extent of his grief and guilt over the death of his daughter( an without knowing his grief over the death of the waitress) and she determines to leave the house and go to him. He effort to leave the house and get to New Orleans is undertaken with warmth and humour so it is a shock to her when she finds her husband staying with a foul mouthed young whore. The nature of their previous relationship, the shared tragedy and the people they are still leads her to understand what has happened and she too also sees something of their lost daughter in this girl as some of her background is revealed. The three form an unconventional family but the situation does not last and eventually the girl runs off and the couple return to their home and commence to move on in their lives re-engaging with the world. The film ends as the girl contacts them. She is on her way to Los Vegas but James reassures her that she has the love and support of himself and his wife and she should not hesitate to turn to them if need arises.

The film has attracted positive responses with the director awarded a prize at the Sundance Festival. Kristen Stewart best actress at the Milan Festival with James a Best Actor nominee. While the response of critics has been mixed this in my view is best of the July and August bunch.

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