Opens Friday 10/29
Us Rating: ** 1/2
Kristen Stewart sheds her Twilight image in this gritty drama, playing a New Orleans stripper and prostitute in a performance that screams "take me seriously." While she achieves her goal -- perfecting every tic and hair fling of this bruised 16-year-old runaway -- the rest of the movie falls short. Working in a club one night, the profanity-spewing Mallory encounters uptight, out-of-town businessman Doug Riley (James Gandolfini) when she gives him an awkward lap dance. The two then develop a platonic friendship -- he rents her an apartment but demands she clean up her life -- that also sets him on the path to reconciliation with his agoraphobic wife, Lois (a pitch-perfect Melissa Leo).
The drama has some poignant smaller moments, such as when Doug teaches Mallory how to put sheets on a bed, a basic skill the parentless teen lacks. But the underlying premise -- that an estranged couple would adopt a troubled waif to repair their marriage after a daughter's death -- rings false. The R-rated film also includes so many scenes of Stewart slinking around in her underwear that it feels exploitative. And as for Gandolfini's inconsistent Southern accent -- fuhgedaboudit!
-- THELMA ADAMS