March 28, 2018

The Leisure Seeker: Elderly Couple Embarks on Eventful Road Trip in Romantic Movie

By Kam Williams

Ella (Helen Mirren) and John Spencer (Donald Sutherland) have been happily married for more than 50 years, and their love hasn’t diminished one iota in spite of his battle with dementia or by hers with brain cancer. Therefore, the inseparable couple resisted their doctors who wanted them to move into different healthcare facilities.

Instead, the 80+ year-olds decide to share one last vacation in their mothballed RV fondly called “The Leisure Seeker.” They plan to drive from Wellesley down to Key West where John, a retired English professor, hopes to visit the home of Ernest Hemingway.

So, without letting their doctors or children (Janet Moloney and Christian McKay) know what they’re up to, they pack provisions and a shotgun and take to the highway in their trusty RV. What ensues is an eventful road trip that is a mix of tenderness, nostalgia, and a little gallows humor.

Thus unfolds The Leisure Seeker, a romantic film directed by Paolo Virzi (Like Crazy). The movie is the talented Italian director’s first English language feature.

Virzi wisely chose two consummate actors to play the leads. Helen Mirren disappears into her role, and has a thick drawl as a sunny steel magnolia from South Carolina and Donald Sutherland is quite convincing as an intermittently lucid Alzheimer’s victim who lectures strangers about literary greats one minute and becomes lost in his thoughts the next.

The story is loosely based on Michael Zadoorian’s bestseller of the same name which originally had the Spencers as Detroit natives who set out for Disneyland. Instead, Ella and John enjoy the experiences they encounter on their way to Florida from New England, including a hilarious encounter with a geriatric patient played by the late Dick Gregory, who appears in a memorable cameo.

Good (**). Rated R for sexuality and mature themes. Running time: 112 minutes. Production Studios: Bac Films/Rai Cinema/Indiana Production Company. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics.