Welcome to the Rileys
Welcome to the Rileys begins with a marriage on the verge of collapse after a tragic accident that took the life of their daughter. Doug (James Gandolfini) is a philandering, depressed man, worried sick of his own immortality. Lois (Melissa Leo) is an agoraphobic shut in. When Doug goes to New Orleans for a convention he meets a down on her luck, under age stripper named Mallory (Kristen Stewart). Sensing a chance to play the father figure again, Doug stays in New Orleans to rehabilitate and take care of her, while Lois attempts to overcome her own fears to be with her husband. After a painfully boring opening act, the movie really picks up, and gives you the chance to really invest in the characters. All three of the leads imbue each of their performances with a good measure of pain, sadness and anger, especially Stewart. I'm not full of shit! Kristen Stewart can act well, when the material that she is presented is not drawn from one of the worst books ever written. Sure, some of the stuff she has to say could be boiled down to a constant slew of curse words, but she brings such energy to the role, that you can forget all about Bella Swan. Her trademark, biting of her bottom lip, angst ridden style is perfect for this role. Gandolfini and Leo as the married couple are also a match made in heaven. Gandolfini is great as the sad Doug, bringing a lot of anger to the role, but keeping it repressed until it comes boiling over. Leo also fairs well. Initially, she's stuck with the comic relief, as the scenes of her attempting to start her husbands car are quite funny, but these scenes are quickly done away with a series of moving scenarios that show her overcoming her fears in order to make her marriage work. It's great. The director, Jake Scott (son of Ridley) starts off the film at a snails pace, but quickly picks up momentum when he tosses Stewart on to the screen. With help from a truly minimalist score that does a great job capitalizing on the bleak existence of the characters, he has created a solid piece of work that could not be more different then that of his father's. He is hamstrung by the aforementioned slow start and an occasionally weak script, but he manages to transcend them. It's not a perfect movie, but one that you won't regret seeking out when it comes to theaters. If anything, you'll see that I'm right about Stewart.
Jake Scott following the Q&A
On a very different note, Teenage Pararazzo. Directed, and narrated by Entourage star, Adrian Grenier, this documentary examines celebrity and the public's fascination with it. It all starts with Grenier's discovery of a teenaged, paparazzi photographer who is obsessed with the lifestyle and the thrill of chasing celebs. Grenier follows him around, hoping to get the inside scoop on the paparazzi and what it is that makes them tick. Along the way, he reveals big truths about how the public view celebrities, It's an interesting little doc that will probably have a small run on HBO, and then fade into obscurity. If it's on, I'd say it's worth a look, but it's not going to speak to any big truth. I filmed the Q&A with Grenier following the screening, which should give you a better sense of what the film is about then I can. It's good, but not great.
So. Two films. Not bad, considering I had nary a ticket in my hand when I woke up this morning. Had I been here for the whole festival and not one little weekend, I'd have seen a whole ton of other movies. Top of my list to see when it comes out in theaters is Hesher, starring my love, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays the sociopathic, mean spirited title character. I've heard great things about it, and I can't wait to see what my boy can do again. Next on the list is Howl, with James Franco as Alan Ginsberg. Reviews of this one have also been stellar, and, c'mon, it's a film about Alan Ginsberg. What's not to like. Also on my list is The Runaways, starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning as rockers Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, and The Company Men, starring the likes of Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones as men trying to survive a year of corporate downsizing. All these films, given the pedigree of the people involved will most likely be bought by studios and receive wide releases; The Runaways is already slated for a March 19th release date. I'm just glad I got to experience one day of the Sundance life. It's great, and I can't wait until I can fully take in the whole deal.