October 29, 2010 / 6:30 PM / 8 years ago

Gandolfini, Leo probe troubled marriage in "Rileys"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It stars Kristen Stewart but is a far cry from her teen romance “Twilight” movies, and for adult audiences heading to see “Welcome to the Rileys” when it debuts in theaters on Friday, that may be a good thing.

James Gandolfini arrives at the opening night of the Broadway production "Fences" at the Cort Theatre in New York City April 26, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

In a moviegoing era when producers are aiming big-budget fare mostly at teen audiences, adults are finding two few dramas dealing with topics more familiar to them than falling in love with vampires. In fact, that is what drew co-stars James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo to the dark film drama.

“”I loved that grown-up love story on the page, and I loved that (director) Jake Scott wanted me so much for it when it was so different,” Leo told Reuters in a joint interview with Gandolfini.

For his part, “Welcome to the Rileys” gave Gandolfini — the former, angry mob boss Tony Soprano of “The Sopranos” fame — a chance to delve into a character who is more concerned with doing right, than wrong.

“There’s just a simplicity to the movie,” he said. “I spent a lot of years screaming and yelling, and this is different.”

“Welcome to the Rileys” stars Gandolfini and Leo as an emotionally distant couple whose teenage daughter loses her life in a car accident. Her death causes Leo’s character, Lois Riley, to become deeply depressed and afraid to leave home.

In response, Gandolfini’s Doug Riley grows ever more distant, eventually deciding it’s better to stay away from Lois. When he befriends a 17 year-old stripper on business trip to New Orleans, Doug decides to bring the teen into his house with Lois, and the girl’s presence sparks a return to some sort of normalcy for the Riley’s relationship.

Leo, who was Oscar-nominated for her lead actress role in 2008 drama “Frozen River,” said what lured her into the role of grieving mother and wife Lois Riley was the chance to play a woman whose emotions are bundled up inside, even though they are quite ready to burst out.

“I’ve always played different kinds of women but their is a lot more movement in them than in Lois. Her emotions are so repressed and internal,” she said.

The movie has played at film festivals throughout 2010 to mixed critical reviews, but now audiences get their chance to see it and decide for themselves whether they like it.

And while many of the 20 year-old Stewart’s mostly young “Twilight” fans may not turn out, it just may be she gains some new followers among older adults.

Gandolfini, for one, is impressed.

“I thought it (‘Rileys’) was an interesting choice for her,” he said. “She wants to do certain things as an actress on the screen, and that’s nice. When I was 21, I had no clue about anything...She’s a smart young lady and that’s nice to see.”

Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr.; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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