If you absolutely, positively need to see Kristen Stewart’s butt, then this is the movie for you. Otherwise, I don’t know.

Alright, that’s a bit harsh. In actuality, you’ll probably want to check this one out at least once if you’re a fan of any of the three main actors – Stewart, James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo. All three give terrific performances here (it’s particularly relieving to see Stewart more than hold her own against two high-caliber peers), but sometimes great performances just aren’t enough to save an entire movie, and I think that’s the case with this one.

Leo and Gandolfini play a married couple who have become emotionally detached from one another ever since the death of their teenage daughter in an automobile accident. Leo is addicted to prescription medication and unable to even leave the house, while Gandolfini has just started an affair with the waitress of a diner he visits regularly. It’s clear the two don’t hate each other – they just have nothing left in them to try and re-connect.

When Gandolfini goes on a business trip to New Orleans, he meets Stewart’s character, a young runaway who has taken to stripping and prostitution for income. Although she at first assumes Gandolfini’s kindness to be because he wants to sleep with her, it soon becomes obvious that he is looking for a deeper connection. In this wayward girl, Gandolfini sees the potential for a surrogate daughter; someone he can help get their life together, and guide. He is soon living with her in her crappy house, fixing it up and trying to teach her how not to be foul-mouthed and willfully ignorant. Stewart is resistant to his help at first, but soon begins to both appreciate and crave his attention and approval.

When Gandolfini calls Leo to tell her he will be staying in New Orleans longer than expected, she takes it upon herself to brave the outside for the first time in years, and travel down there to surprise him. This is one element of the story that I DID like – once she arrives, Gandolfini does not try to hide his relationship with Stewart from his wife, but instead excitedly introduces the two, hoping Leo will also see the opportunity to once again play parents. Although she is hesitant at first, Leo decides to give it a try, and soon recognizes that this young girl does indeed need more help than just a man can provide. And so the three become a sort of weird surrogate family, which is fine and dandy until Stewart begins feeling the two are trying to control her a bit too much.

This is a fairly decent story, if somewhat predictable – it’s the usual “all these fucked-up people somehow need each other to fix their lives” story that heavily populates the independent cinema scene nowadays. But, again, other than the performances, there’s really nothing that special about this – certainly not enough for me to enthusiastically recommend it. I was never bored during it, thanks to the strong work of the performers, but it never really grabbed me in the emotional way that a movie like this probably should. I think that during that whole movie I pretty much felt like I knew where it was all going, and where everyone would end up, so it was hard to get too involved in the little problems and challenges that arise. I guess if you come across this one on TV someday, and like any of these actors, go ahead and watch it. But don’t go out of your way to see it, as chances are you’ve already seen plenty of versions of this story anyway, and most likely better ones.

On a side note, what the hell is up with James Gandolfini’s breathing? Does this bother anyone besides me? You can literally ALWAYS hear this guy breathing during any scene of any movie or show he is in. I mean, I know he’s a heavyset guy, but geez. Isn’t there a way to adjust the boom mics NOT to pick this up, or remove it in post? It’s distracting.

This review was originally posted on May 14th, 2011 at Trevor Likes Movies.

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