The Leisure Seeker
by George Wolf
Pairing up Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland is a welcome idea with exciting potential. Much of that potential is left unexplored by The Leisure Seeker in favor of embarrassing schtick and cheap sentiment.
The veteran actors star as Ella and John Spencer, a senior couple in Massachusetts who bust out their old RV and run from the concerned grasp of their kids for a bucket list trip. John is a retired literature professor who has long idolized Hemingway, so Ella decides it’s time to visit the Hemingway House in Key West before John’s memory fades away completely.
This road trip setup, from the novel by Michael Zadoorian, is more organically sound than most, but soon gets exploited with easy pickings from two crops of low-hanging fruit.
Director and co-writer Paolo Virzi (Like Crazy) strings together the random, disconnected hijinx this genre seemingly demands, while also poking cliched fun at old people riding motorcycles, talking sex or packing heat. This laziness comes much too frequently, with punchlines based on age not action, bringing a stale odor to the goodwill earned from putting these two endlessly likable stars at the forefront.
Mirren and Sutherland are worth a better investment, and both end up working much too hard selling these warmed-over tropes, but the missed opportunities extend beyond the cast list.
Some worthy issues on aging come into view, only to be passed by or, worse yet, made light of, all in service of a maudlin conclusion you could see coming in the dark with no headlights. Expecting every film on senior issues to carry the magnificence of, say, Amour, would be unrealistic, but The Leisure Seeker hardly wanders beyond the Going in Style end of the pool.
Bad trip, man.