I can name this tune in 4 notes; so can you.
Doug (James Gandolfini) is in his early 50s, a successful business owner (something to do with plumbing supplies) who lives in a nice Indianapolis suburb with his wife of nearly 30 years, Lois (Melissa Leo). Doug and Lois are gentle people who dance around each other in the way some couples do, with courtesy and concern, and even affection. They haven’t run out of love, in other words, just luck.
We soon figure out why Doug, who seems soft-spoken and friendly, enjoying his weekly poker game, looks the way he does when he steps outside to smoke. Thoughtful, maybe a little sad.
We figure out that Lois, who seems to be an accomplished artist, doesn’t get out of the house much, and then we see she doesn’t get out at all.
And we figure out, and learn soon enough, that they lost a daughter, Emily, somehow, tragically, and this is why we see the dance. Doug is desperately trying to figure out how to keep living, while Lois is quietly preparing to die.
Doug goes to a convention in New Orleans and encounters a 16-year-old stripper/prostitute, Mallory, or Allison, or a couple of other names (played by Kristen Stewart), sort of haphazardly insinuates himself into her life, and there you go. You know now, or you think you know. Grieving father, distant mother, hooker with a heart of gold.
The best part of “Welcome To The Rileys” isn’t that the film manages to avoid the movie cliches we see coming from way off, although that’s a plus. It’s that it makes us forget for a while that those cliches even exist, because we’re busy watching real people do what all real people do: The best they can.
And by the time Lois says, “She’s not Emily, Doug,” it’s an aside, unnecessary for him to hear, or us. Doug wasn’t trying to replace his daughter; he didn’t, in fact, have much of an idea about what he was doing, other than trying to help.
All three of these actors were spectacular. The script had a couple of turns that felt false to me, but otherwise this was a gem, a little film about ordinary people that moved me more than I expected.
If you can imagine the life of a 16-year-old runaway who works in the sex industry, you can probably imagine how she views life and what kind of language she uses; this is why “Welcome To The Rileys” has an R rating. If that’s something you’ll be bothered by, now you know.
Otherwise, no sex or violence to speak of, although there is one scene in which Doug unclogs a toilet with a plumbing snake. If that sort of thing also bothers you.