| James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos"), Kristen Stewart (best known as Bella Swan from "The Twilight Saga" movies) and Melissa Leo ("Conviction" and the upcoming "The Fighter") put on an acting showcase in this emotional story of damaged individuals.
The marriage of Doug and Lois Riley (Gandolfini and Leo) has grown cold and stale after nearly 30 years. Doug, 52, runs a wholesale plumbing supply business in Indianapolis. His lonely existence consists of a weekly poker game and smoking cigarettes in the garage. He has been having an affair for four years with Vivian (Eisa Davis), an African-American waitress.
Doug asks Vivian to go with him to a business convention in New Orleans. A few days later he learns that Vivian has died of a heart attack. He becomes even more depressed. He goes to the cemetery and visits Vivianís grave. He then pays his respects to his daughter Emily, who died eight years ago at age 15 in a car crash.
Lois, 50, has become agoraphobic and is unable to step outside their suburban house. All guests come in through the garage (rather than the front door), where an oval-shaped wooden sign bears the words of the movieís title.
Lois asks her sister Harriet (Ally Sheedy in a cameo appearance) to pick up her mail and newspaper every day that Doug is out of town.
Doug goes to the convention in New Orleans and wanders into a strip club. He is solicited for sex by Mallory (Stewart), a 16-year-old runaway from Florida. Mallory hides her oily skin and acne complexion by applying heavy makeup, mascara and dark eye liner. Her profanity-strewn chatter makes her sound cheap, immature and uneducated.
Doug takes a parental interest in Mallory. He calls Lois and tells her that he is staying in New Orleans. Lois thinks Doug has lost his mind. She finds the courage to drive the Cadillac all the way to New Orleans.
Surprising twists lead the story in unexpected directions. The actors get credit for making you care about these characters. The audience develops a temporary bond during the 110-minute running time.
The heart-to-heart conversations between Mallory and Doug seem genuine. Mallory is also able to open up to Lois on female concerns.
Ridley Scottís son Jake directs this contemporary drama from an original script by Ken Hixon. The movie was shot in New Orleans, which adds authenticity and sets the mood.
Gandolfini uses his physicality and a Midwestern accent to embody a father with a gentle side. Leo shows a lot of class in her portrayal of a grief-stricken woman feeling guilty for impulsive actions. Stewart shows her versatility in stepping out of her comfort zone. She previously demonstrated her acting chops in the little-seen "The Yellow Handkerchief" (2008), now available on DVD and also worth checking out.
This indie gem opens exclusively for a limited engagement at the Glenwood Red Bridge.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"