"I guess I'm just not used to being around young women who talk about their private parts."
Thankfully, I have never experienced loss like the Rileys; the death of a child would be like no other. Theirs, Emily, was abruptly taken in a car crash. Grief is uniquely individual; it is dealt with in different ways. Lois is an agoraphobic. Due to guilt and fear, since the accident ten years prior, she is unable to leave her house. She is a shell of her previous self. Neighbours deliver her mail, hairdressers come to her.
Doug copes by keeping on an affair with a waitress, Vivian. She is invited by Doug to accompany him to New Orleans, but tragedy strikes again and Vivian dies, befallen by a heart attack. This is the proverbial straw. Doug continues onto the conference and calls Lois: he is not coming back. It is here where he meets Mallory. She is a stripper, portrayed by Kristen Stewart (THE RUNAWAYS).
Stewart of course is known mostly by her presence in the omnipresent TWILIGHT series. Those films offer nothing but fodder for emotionally charged teens. Here, she periodically shows promise, but too often falls back on her natural awkward tendencies. In the end, she is not wholly credible. Mallory appears resolute; her broken spirit is protected only by her tough exterior. Doug and Mallory begin a symbiotic relationship; both offer what the other needs. Doug sees his departed daughter in another light (and in a strange another life). A chance for redemption is introduced. In turn, what starts purely as a monetary alliance, eventually turns into something more familial.
The best part of RILEYS is Doug and Lois. Played by James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo, they both represent realistic paths. Gandolfini is an intimidating man, habitually cast as the modern day gangster. Playing against type, he is an affable teddy bear. He loves Lois, and she him. Their reconciliation delivered something unexpected to me.
These three form an unusual nuclear family. There are some lighthearted moments, but ultimately there is more wrong than right here. The plot is touching, and a great narrative is buried somewhere. Gandolfini and Leo and are always worth watching. However, the film flounders in the last act of where to head and how to get there. Director Jake Scott (son of Ridley) exhibits momentary glimpses of his father's talents; perhaps in the future, more concrete surroundings will complete a satisfying beginning.