“Outing Riley” is the sophomore feature from writer/director/star Pete Jones (of “Project Greenlight” fame) about a homosexual man (Bobby) in Chicago who must find a way to tell his three brothers about his predilection for men. Thankfully, he has an understanding sister (Maggie) that helps him put together his strategy and a loving boyfriend (Andy) that deals with his inability to live a life free of subterfuge.
In theory, the movie sounds like it could be pretty entertaining… if it were 1987, starred John Ritter and was directed by Blake Edwards. But in today’s age of increased tolerance and understanding, it is a bit hard to believe that this scenario could create believable conflict among four brothers living in a major metropolitan city. Setting aside disbelief for a moment, though, let’s discuss the movie on its merits.
Pete Jones is not a very good actor. Normally, I wouldn’t single someone out like that, but when you write and plan to direct a film, it takes either a lot of talent or a lot of chutzpah to pull off starring in it… and Jones, as an actor, doesn’t have much of either. There are some scenes where the lack of chemistry is so apparent that they are painful to watch, especially the ones meant to show camaraderie among the brothers. With a lightweight in the lead, it is doubly important to pack your supporting cast with able players, but, unfortunately, “Outing Riley” fares no better in that regard, either.
“Outing Riley” begins as your typical Ed Burns-style comedy: some good-natured ribbing here, some over-the-top pathos there. Only problem is, Pete Jones is never able to conjure the on-screen chemistry required to make something like that work. Most of the early scenes fall flat, and many of the actors seem to be merely reading their lines and not fully inhabiting the characters they have been hired to portray.
The only relationship that rings true is that of Bobby and his sister Maggie as they attempt to navigate the tricky Irish Catholic waters of their old-school Chicago family. Unfortunately, their screen time is limited and we are instead left with a handful of forced gags that derail the story while adding nothing to the mood.
The film does make great use of its Chicago locations, creating a strong sense of place. Too bad it is in the service of a comparatively weak story.