Welcome to the Rileys (15)

Starring: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo
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The Independent Culture

The best thing about this gentle story of bereavement and healing are the honest performances of the central trio.

James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo play Doug and Lois, a couple in suburban Indiana whose marriage has seized up after the death of their teenage daughter in a car accident: he has sought refuge in an affair, she's a pill-popping agoraphobic who has already planted a headstone in the local cemetery with both their names on it ("it's called pre-planning"). While on a business trip in New Orleans, Doug makes the acquaintance of a sulky teenage prostitute (Kristen Stewart) and decides to move into her grotty apartment, becoming housekeeper and father figure. When Lois makes a surprise appearance in New Orleans, the stage is set.

Gandolfini, still pulling away from the shadow of Tony Soprano, is touching as the regular guy who doesn't know what to do with his grief, while Stewart, a more volatile presence than in her Twilight role, is cool enough to go greasy-haired and spotty. Melissa Leo perhaps does the most thoughtful work, especially in a bar scene where she's surprised by a man trying to pick her up. Director Jake Scott respects the tenderness of Ken Hixon's not-quite-believable script. Even at its most pat and sentimental, you never doubt its heart.