Welcome to the Rileys is a big departure from director Jake Scott’s music video work and directorial debut, the little seen Plunkett & Macleane.
If you’ve seen a music video of his or a short film (his short for Phillips Cinema, The Hunt, is especially worth checking out: here), he’s a man for eye-popping visuals.
This is Scott’s second feature film, but many going in will most likely think it’s his directorial debut, and Scott might prefer it that way; he sort of groaned when I mentioned Plunkett & Macleane was on Netflix Insant and he sounded more fond of the learning experience than the actual film. Macleane and Rileys couldn’t be more different films.
With that in mind, here’s 5 Things You Need To Know About Welcome to the Rileys before you see it:
5. James Gandolfini and his accent
Scott referenced Gandolfini as being a “bear”, but also a man of sensitivity and commitment. One day on set he punched a hole through a wall from frustration, but only due to feeling like he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to. Gandolfini is someone that’s always going to be tagged with playing Tony Soprano, but with roles like this, Carol in Where the Wild Things Are and In the Loop, you forget about that Jersey gangster he once played. Gandolfini makes Doug Riley into one of the most sympathetic characters of the year.
As for his accent, it must be brought up since Scott seemed key on going on record about it, but it’s consistent and his Indiana drawl adds to his old fashioned sense. Apparently, a certain journalist didn’t feel that way and told Gandolfini right off the bat at a press conference that it wasn’t consistent, but it is.
4. Stewart’s hair twirling
I didn’t plan on asking Scott about this, it’s a silly topic and critique, but many continue to (oddly) complain. Towards the end when Scott was discussing the critical reaction to the film and Kristen Stewart, who once again shows her vast potential outside the Twilight universe, I randomly brought up the hair twirling. If any of you has ever been around a teenage girl, you know they twirl their hair, and Scott knows and defends that. Why do they do it? Who knows, but they do it. Stewart understands that along with plenty of the other tics nervous girls have; fidgeting, biting your lip, to staring downwards.
3. It is visually restrained
Jake Scott comes from the world of music videos, a universe in which you can getaway with doing almost anything visually, even if it’s not appropriate or fitting to the song at hand. Scott says that he strayed away from that with videos and even more so with Welcome to the Rileys.
Scott cited his debut film Plunkett & Macleane as him unleashed, here that’s not the case. But he did argue that the film isn’t quite getting it’s due when it comes to the visuals, many critics have been lamenting it without flair, but that’s not the case. Scott fills the screen with plenty of symbolic shots, he frames characters perfectly representing their emotions, and even switches up styles for the state of the story and the drama.
2. It’s not creepy
The idea of a 50-something old man shacking up with a teenage stripper/prostitute to feel like a father again is a creepy idea. For the first few minutes, there is nothing but awkwardness between the two. Smartly so, Scott uses certain techniques to hideaway any readings of sexual tension: Scott talked about how he avoided shooting Mallory dancing for Doug in the beginning, if he had, Doug could have come off like a pervert and more off-putting than sympathetic.
There’s also moment or two where both Scott and screenwriter Ken Hixon show that Doug knows how odd the situation is whether it be with a glance or a subtle line. Initially, though, the script contained a sexual tension and ambiguity between the two. Scott decided it didn’t seem appropriate for the two.
1. Don’t expect American Beauty 2
If Welcome to the Rileys took the path of American Beauty with poking fun at its characters and their situations, it could have been despicable and more than morally questionable. The film follows three very sad and depressed individuals, two of them deal with child loss, so the idea of throwing humor in at their demise would have been tonally erratic. Scott mentioned during the development there was a little humor involved, but thankfully, comic relief was taken out.
Welcome to the Rileys is now in theaters.