The Leisure Seeker
This movie has all the predictable cliches you could imagine. Even the soundtrack is filled with the types of songs you’d expect — Janis Joplin (Me and My Bobby McGee), Carole King (It’s Too Late, which in my opinion, is the best breakup song of all-time), a healthy dose of Dylan, Chicago’s cheesy “If You Leave Me Now.” But just as it surprised me with the Iggy Pop tune “Real Wild Child,” it also surprised me with how moved it got me. The Leisure Seeker had a leisurely pace (no pun intended), that mostly worked. Of course, all the critics attacking it are correct in what they say. My favorite was Ray Pride who said, “I don’t know your mom, but she might like it.”
He was right. My mom, who saw all the big movies of last year, proclaimed this to be her favorite.
Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland play a long-married couple that is going to take their ‘75 Winnebago on a trip to the Florida Keys to see Ernest Hemingway’s home. He’s a retired professor who’s a huge fan and always wanted to go, and with his Alzheimer’s, they’re on borrowed time. It’s rather sweet that she wants to do this for him, and you also feel for her when he won’t shut up about himself to waitresses at greasy spoons that couldn’t care less. Although I was a bit perplexed as to why she got mad when someone is actually excited to talk Hemingway with him. It is easy to understand her frustration with him not shutting up with every stranger he sees. We all have (or had) older family members that are like that.
Along the way, we get some fun roadtrip shenanigans. There’s a ride on a motorcycle, a stop at a Trump rally, and some pleasant vistas and sweet slideshows at RV stops along the way; although I have no clue why director Paolo Virzi would show other people watching and enjoying their slideshow. Nobody would care. Heck, remember how bored we got in the ‘70s watching slideshows from our friends’ vacations? And those are people we know! But I digress.
I couldn’t help think how sometimes they nail aging and dementia perfectly, and other times it becomes a narrative convenience. That’s annoying, and must be frustrating for anybody watching that has had to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
There’s a subplot about their adult children that are worried about this trip. The son, played by Christian McKay, was weird. My wife said, “Wow, he looks a lot like Orson Welles.”
I replied, “That’s probably why he was in the movie ‘Me and Orson Welles’.”
The problem we had was with his voice. His worried nature just felt over-the-top, and it felt like we were watching somebody act.
There were a lot of moments that were hit-and-miss. The way they bickered about things, especially her old boyfriend (who we’re lucky enough to see late in the movie, in his last film role — comedic legend Dick Gregory).
What did work well was his (and her) frustration over his failing memory. One scene involving an attractive student he ran into was really interesting.
Some of the jokes fall flat (I seem to recall one involving flatulence), but I was still entertained. Hell, we’re watching acting royalty. Even if queen Helen Mirren couldn’t always pull off that South Carolina accent, or the film ventures into melodrama more than it should have.
This is all based on the 2009 novel by Michael Zadoorian. The good news is — it’s better than The Bucket List. The bad news is — it didn’t quite work as well as it should’ve.
It needed a bit more humor. Perhaps a few more goofy characters or more detours along their journey.
2 ½ out of 5.