If you cast aside the immense popularity of the Twilight saga, there hasn’t been much substance to Kristen Stewart‘s career. She gets credit for tackling mostly indie roles, but with the the exception of Twilight, there hasn’t been much success in the film business for her. I have admired her for being part of films like Into the Wild and The Yellow Handkerchief because these aren’t movies with a lot of upside potential. They’re good stories, but the chance for success (both box office and audience approval) is limited.
In Welcome to the Rileys Stewart undertakes another challenging role – a teenage runaway who works as a stripped in New Orleans. She meets James Gandolfini, who has ditched the Tony Soprano persona and become a kind, caring person. He begins looking after her while he continues to cope with the loss of his own daughter. Oscar-nominee Melissa Leo plays the Mrs. Riley, also very much struggling with the depression associated with the loss of her daughter. She is resistant, at first, to Stewart’s character but her maternal instincts begin to kick in.
This is another relatively small production and without major studio support. I’m hoping that Stewart’s level of celebrity is high enough now that she can bring in audiences wanting to see her regardless of the film. Welcome to the Rileys appears to be a very touching film about the nature of loss and second chances – something we all can relate too. Both Gandolfini and Leo can turn in excellent performances, and I think Stewart has found a role to make her own.
Will it make hundreds of millions at the box office? Probably not. Will be get nominated for an Oscar? Well…maybe. But will it give audiences a chance to witness real acting from Stewart, and not just the Twilight-hype content that is shoveled at teens.