Directed by:Jake Scott
Welcome to the Rileys
If ever there was irrefutable evidence of Hollywood nepotism it can be found in this stupefying examination of 3 emotionally blocked characters in search of a script capable of bringing them to life. Backed by no less than 5 producers, 3 co-producers, 2 executive producers and 1 line producer, first-time feature film director Jake Scott (son of Ridley, (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator) and nephew of Tony, (Man on Fire, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) puts the cinematic equivalent of the Heimlich Maneuver on Ken Hixon’s (City by the Sea) screenplay - - but delivers a movie that’s D.O.A. from its opening scene.
Riley’s storyline involves 3 emotionally constipated characters, (Doug Riley, his wife Lois and Mallory, a teenage stripper/prostitute) played respectively by James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo and Kristen Stewart. As the film opens, Doug’s arid marriage to the agoraphobic Lois tempts him into a strip club in New Orleans while attending a business convention. He meets Mallory there and compulsively decides to rescue her from the self-destructive life style she’s chosen. In Hixon’s hysterically inane storyline, that prompts Doug to move into Mallory’s dumpy, flea-bag apartment, where he pays $100 per day to fix her hot water heater, reconnect her electricity and clean her toilet, all while enduring Mallory’s rants, delivered in a vocabulary generally limited to phrases most often encountered in the men’s rooms of run-down filing stations, where even the condom dispensers are graffiti-laden .
When Lois works up the nerve to leave her suburban Indianapolis home and head to The Big Easy to save her man, she spends no small amount of time relearning how drive a car, warding off guys on the make in roadside diners and observing the night skies in her dressing gown. But once reunited with Doug, Lois too falls under Mallory’s expletive-ridden spell; is it because Mallory reminds her of the daughter she and Doug lost in an automobile accident years before? Perhaps she also realizes Mallory’s simply a lost soul longing for love and a clean change of underwear.
Sure enough, even the couple’s loving attention can’t ultimately dissuade Mallory from heading back out on the streets to shed her duds and sell her body.
Sadly, (and with agonizing reluctance) Lois and Doug return home - - only to receive a plaintive call from Mallory, who informs them she’s headed to Las Vegas…but that she’s stopped smoking.
Of such piercing insights are truly bad movies made…
Gandolfini and Leo are wondrously gifted actors who manage to occasionally rise above Hixson’s lumpish dialogue and Scott’s tendency to have his cast pause between nearly every phrase they utter, as if delays in their responses speaks volumes about their characters’ suppressed motivations. Ms. Stewart, whose zombie-like facial expressions and copious eye shadow have been shrewdly parlayed into mini-stardom in a string of recent vampire flicks, doesn’t have to do much here; she looks perpetually wan, fakes inhaling the cigarettes she smokes and repeats, ad nausea, sexual slang words not suitable for polite conversation or convent life. Her involvement in this project obviously seeks to capitalize on her severely limited range as an actress - - but what in the name of all that’s good and holy are Gandolfini and Leo doing in this stilted, excruciatingly-paced, embarrassingly bad directorial debut?
Let’s hope they were at least well paid.
The Verdict? Unendurably God-awful.
Jake's Takes comments powered by Disqus