The Leisure Seeker
Runtime 112 minutes
I went to see this because of Helen Mirren. No matter how bad the movie, she generally makes it worthwhile.
It’s Italian made, directed by Paolo Virzì, who also has a writing credit with a bunch of people named Stephen Amidon, Francesca Archibugi and Francesco Piccolo, from a short novel by Michael Zadoorian about an elderly couple running away from the Detroit suburbs to California in their old RV, along iconic Route 66. The problem is that Paolo apparently didn’t have an editor who had the guts to cut the thing down to a workable viewing experience. I’m often grousing about films that run too long and this is the perfect case in point. It goes on and on and on, failing the watch test dismally.
Paolo used Zadoorian’s idea but changed it so that Mirren and her husband, Donald Sutherland, take off from Boston on a trip to the Florida Keys to view Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West. Donald was a college professor with a specialty in Hemingway’s writing. Now, alas, he’s suffering from dementia. Helen also has an unnamed malady that we don’t learn what it is until the end of the movie. They take off without the knowledge or consent of their children (Christian McKay and Janel Moloney) in an old RV named, The Leisure Seeker, what else?
While their children worry about their parents since they don’t know where they are, Helen and Donald traipse down the east coast having one adventure after another and this is where the film loses its way. Paolo should have cut their adventures short; there are just too many of them and they are too predictable to not have been seen as disposable.
Mirren shines, as usual, and Sutherland handles a difficult role with aplomb. It does present the difficulties of one spouse lovingly dealing with the other who has constant memory failures that can’t help but being annoying. This is a wonderfully realistic presentation of this problem that is becoming more and more common.
It closes with what appears to be a political pitch for a controversial action that would be a terminal spoiler if I wrote about it, so I won’t.
This could have been a terrific movie had it been more tightly directed and edited down to 90 minutes, and if it had left out the preachy ending, which clearly takes a position instead of leaving it up to the viewer to decide.