Film Review of "The Leisure Seeker"



In THE LEISURE SEEKER, Will Spencer (Christian McKay) arrives at the home of his parents, Ella (Helen Mirren) and John (Donald Sutherland), only to find that they're gone, having taken their 1975 Winnebago -- dubbed "The Leisure Seeker" -- and hit the road. John's memory is slowly fading, and he has trouble remembering things, so this is meant to be a kind of last hurrah -- which is why Ella refuses to tell her worried son and daughter, Jane (Janel Moloney), where they are. During their journey, they're pulled over by cops and held at knifepoint, but they also dance in an expensive hotel room and enjoy outdoor slideshows of their lives together. Things come to a head when Ella learns an old secret and when she collapses at Hemingway's house. But no matter what, the couple vows to never be apart again.

This soft, languid road movie benefits from accomplished actors Mirren and Sutherland; they share a genuine chemistry, but despite some lovely moments, the film meanders and becomes lost. The Leisure Seeker is structured in little segments, one largely disconnected from the next, and when it stays light and hopeful, these work. But when they become focused on John's dementia, things take a melancholy turn that's inescapable and hopeless. And even some of the lighter scenes -- such as the attempted mugging -- fail to work because they're too light; they don't feel like life.

The roles of Ella and John's children, played ably by Moloney and McKay, don't quite fit anywhere, either. They mostly talk about their parents and argue about their care, but the movie doesn't really address much beyond that. The wonderful moments show the older couple's bond at its strongest -- when they're almost able to understand each other's thoughts or how to work each other's moods. But even these tend to feel upturned by the movie's mournful ending. Yet the characters are in place; if only The Leisure Seeker could have been a more truthful movie ... and a shorter one.