Barely released to theaters in fall of 2010, Welcome to the Rileys may get a bit more attention now that it’s available on Blu-ray. It’s the kind of “small” movie that actually plays far better at home in a more intimate environment than a big screen auditorium.
The movie is centered around three characters, all emotionally scarred on a deep level. James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) and Melissa Leo (2010 Oscar nominee for The Fighter) play Doug and Lois Riley. The couple has been married for thirty years, but they haven’t been connecting at all since the loss of their teenage daughter several years ago. Melissa has become a complete shut-in, afraid to even get the morning paper from the driveway. As a result Doug has sought intimacy outside of the marriage.
Doug’s life changes dramatically when he encounters an underage stripper while in New Orleans on a business trip. He sees an opportunity to help out someone around the age of his late daughter, potentially filling a painful gap in his life. The stripper, who goes by Mallory and supplements her income with prostitution, is played very effectively by Kristen Stewart (Twilight). Without being overbearing, Doug tries to be a positive influence on Mallory’s life. Mallory doesn’t always know how to react to such kindness, so their relationship is often on rocky ground.
To reveal more would actually do a disservice to someone viewing the film for the first time. Suffice it to say this is a slice of life drama that finds damaged people slowly piecing their lives back together. It isn’t a whole lot of fun, but it isn’t nearly as heavy in atmosphere as it might sound. There are many moments of warm humor even though the main characters are profoundly unhappy with their lives. All three of the principle actors really inhabit their roles and make them seem three dimensional. The end result is a thoughtful movie that benefits from the collective emotional impact of many subtlely touching moments.
Welcome to the Rileys was a very modestly budgeted production. The 1080p high definition presentation on Blu-ray is solid without being especially noteworthy. It’s a drab looking movie in terms of visuals. But those drab visuals are well represented, with a consistently sharp picture. Mallory’s dimly lit house is shadowy, but all the scuzzy details like stains on the walls are always detailed. This is an effective transfer of a movie that wasn’t really trying to impress on a purely visual level to begin with. There are no flaws in the source print and the transfer is free of digital artifacts.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is very similar to the visuals in that the audio design is very basic. This is largely a dialogue-driven movie. As quiet as some of the dialogue is, requiring an occasional boost to the volume, it remains clear and easy to understand. There are a few segments that offer a bit of activity in the surround channels, but they are limited. The main one occurs outdoors in the streets of New Orleans, with many people milling around. Noise from traffic and a parade are reasonably realistic in the way they surround the viewer, but this is really aurally exciting. It merely stands out as a busier scene within a mix that quietly does only what it needs to do.
Special features on this Blu-ray release are very slim. There is an eleven minute featurette and nothing more. This piece was obviously made for promotional purposes and includes comments from most of the principal participants in the production. Welcome to the Rileys is low key in pretty much all ways. But for those with a taste for well-acted character studies, it’s definitely worth watching.