July 9, 2018  (Web Review)

The Leisure Seeker

Sony, 112 min., R, DVD: $25.99, July 10

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

John Spencer (Donald Sutherland) is a retired English professor, devoted to the works of Hemingway, Joyce, and Melville. Although he can quote them verbatim, he’s increasingly debilitated from Alzheimer’s disease, which renders him incapable of remembering even the most mundane details—including his wife’s name. So it’s Ella Spencer (Helen Mirren) who suggests they climb into their 1975 Winnebago Indian RV, nicknamed the “Leisure Seeker,” for one last nostalgic road trip from their home in Wellesley, MA, to Key West, FL. Enjoying the simple pleasures each day brings, they stop at familiar campgrounds along the way, and at night they look at photographs of family and friends that Ella projects onto a makeshift screen. That leads to reminiscing about particular incidents during their decades-long marriage, while also accusing each other of alleged infidelities. Inevitably, the narrative delves into death and dying, particularly the concept of choosing how one dies. None of this sits well with their adult children (Christian McKay, Janel Moloney), who had no idea their parents were leaving on a trip. And they’re understandably worried because Ella is also gravely ill, masking her pain with medicine and whiskey. Sutherland delivers a finely textured portrait of a dignified scholar in decline, while Mirren imbues Ella with genuine warmth, despite her contrived and inconsistent Southern accent. Based on Michael Zadoorian’s 2009 novel, Italian director Paolo Virzì’s The Leisure Seeker unfortunately never settles on a consistent tone. Optional. (S. Granger)