The Leisure Seeker – Film Review by Pat Viale
Director: Paolo Virzì
Writers: Michael Zadoorian (novel), Stephen Amidon (screenplay)
Stars: Helen Mirren, Donald Sutherland, Christian McKay
Italian director, Paolo Virzi’s first English-language feature film is a road movie with a difference. The people here leaving their New England home and heading off into the unknown in their Winnebago have little in common with the characters in Jack Kerouac’s novel or The Motorcycle Diaries. Instead Virzi tells the story of an elderly couple who up sticks and abandon home and family to the consternation of their adult children and head off to the Florida Keys to cross one final item off their bucket list.
When middle-aged son Will (Christian McKay), arrives at his parents’ home to stay with his father John (Donald Sutherland), who is suffering from dementia, while his terminally-ill mother, Ella (Helen Mirren), is taken to hospital by his sister Jane (Janel Moloney of West Wing fame), he finds the house empty and is all the more alarmed when he discovers that their 1975 Winnebago is gone also! The old couple have taken off, intent on travelling the length of the East Coast to pay a long-dreamt of visit to the home of John’s hero, Ernest Hemingway, in Key West.
The film charts their adventures and misadventures along the journey, but relax, it is obvious from the start that nothing too bad is going to happen. In fact, that is the main problem with the film, a sense of total predictability married to a bland, unimaginative script. Virzi’s America is peopled by pleasant, helpful people who could have strayed down from Walton’s Mountain, even when John and Ella find themselves in the middle of a rally for Trump, surrounded by a screaming mob. Later still, when two muggers (the only nasty people in all America) cross their path, they are dispatched in a scene that stretches credibility far beyond its limits.
It is hard to understand why two such talented actors as Sutherland and Mirren agreed to appear in such a mediocre film. While it may not always be obvious from a script how a film will finally turn out, surely the sentimental storyline and the dull and repetitive dialogue must have given some clue. There were numerous scenes when my hand itched for the fast-forward button and when the predicable ending came after nearly two hours, it was a relief to see the credits roll.