If the role of the character known alternately as Allison and Mallory, a teenage stripper adopted by a grieving suburbanite (James Gandolfini), in the Sundancer Welcome to the Rileys wasn’t written expressly for Lindsay Lohan, it would have at least been a perfect fit. (The plot even resembles Georgia Rule, although one expects more out of replacing Jane Fonda with Tony Soprano.) Alas, she’s unemployable, so the role goes to that chick from the emo-vampire tentpole series.
Eternally bedheaded, her listless eyes surrounded by impenetrable eyeliner, Kristen Stewart looks more junkie than pole dancer as the 16 year old who first tries to coax Gandolfini’s Doug Riley into a condom-laden BJ. In New Orleans on business when he whimsically swings into her strip joint, Doug’s been hollowed out by the accidental death of his daughter. As luck would have it, Stewart’s Allison/Mallory is the same age as his daughter, and an orphan to boot. Soon Gandolfini has entered into a no-funny-business version of the Pretty Woman contract, shacking up in and fixing up her dingy apartment, and fining her a dollar every time she deploys an F-bomb. This from one of the stars of In the Loop—a movie, by the way, that allowed Gandolfini to flex far more acting muscles than this alleged drama.
Eventually pill-popping wife Lois (Melissa Leo) makes her way down south to make the family whole, but not before the absurdly talented, typically wasted actress suffers through some embarrassing comic relief shenanigans involving her inability to drive her car past the driveway without hitting something. Otherwise this is humorless, grief-and-redemption porn, notable for the laidback restraint wielded by two-thirds of the primary cast—Stewart tries too hard when she tries at all—and occasionally Ken Hixon’s script does too. Certain obvious directions aren’t taken, some cliches are avoided, but Hixon never replaces these gaps with anything notable. The empty film goes nowhere and not fast, leaving director Jake Scott (son of Ridley, following up 1999’s Plunkett & MacLean) with little to do but allow this blob of not much to expand into a sadistic 110 minutes. Ultimately Rileys settles on trite but inoffensive; the 3 a.m. slot on the Sundance Channel will soon be its grave.