The Leisure Seeker, as the name suggests, is not the most exciting film you’ll see this year; well, unless you see just the one. But it just might be the most comfortable.
It stars Donald Sutherland, a Canadian icon who’s not been on big screens much of late, other than as the dictator in The Hunger Games. And it stars Helen Mirren, who may have been spending a little too much time in the movies lately, bouncing from one underperforming misfire to the next in the likes of Eye in the Sky, Collateral Beauty and the recent horror Winchester.
Here, under the watchful, even loving gaze of Italian director Paolo Virzì (his English-language debut), they are Ella and John Spencer, a long-married couple who decide one August morning to take the family RV all the way from their Massachusetts home to Hemingway’s in Key West, Fla. Their grown kids – Janel Moloney, Christian McKay – are equal parts terrified and furious.
Ella, who speaks in a South Carolinian drawl so thick you could put it on toast, is a little frail but definitely of sound mind. John, on the other hand, is starting to lose track of things. Take the scene where they stop for gas and he leaves without her. When she hitches a ride on a Harley to catch him – probably a fantasy of a certain Mirren fan demographic – he spies her outside the Winnebago and takes her to task for her reckless behaviour.
Their camper, a 1975 Winnebago Indian, is also showing signs of deterioration; you can almost feel the climate changing as it motors down the freeway, a haze of half-combusted hydrocarbons in its wake. A flat tire leads to their being almost robbed by a couple of opportunistic punks. He pulls grammar on them, telling them never to end a demand for cash with a preposition. She pulls a gun. Later, she apologizes to her kids for ignoring a phone call: “I’m so sorry I couldn’t speak to Will; I was held up.”
The movie is based on a 2009 novel by Michael Zadoorian, but Virzì, no doubt intrigued by the oddity that was the 2016 presidential campaign, sets it very much in that year. In one memorable scene, lifelong Democrat John gets distracted by the fervour and energy of a pro-Trump, anti-immigrant rally; before Ella can pull him out, he’s sporting a button and chanting to Make …read more