Thursday, 14 June 2018

Film Review: The Leisure Seeker

Love is dead and growing old sucks – what else is new? 

Paolo Virzi’s The Leisure Seeker centres on an old married couple – Ella (Helen Mirren) and John (Donald Sutherland) – as they grapple with various old age ailments. Despite Ella’s growing frailty and John’s worsening dementia, the couple decide to take their beloved Winnebago – dubbed The Leisure Seeker – for one last road trip, from their home in Boston to visit the Florida Keys home of John’s idol, Ernest Hemmingway.

Virzi’s film, which clocks in at a lengthy 113 minutes and trundles along about as fast as the titular camper, seems to have nothing to say other than “growing old sucks” and “you will find yourself here one day, just like everybody else”. It has sporadic bursts of profound emotion, but eventually they’re all different angles on the same scrape; John forgets himself or where he is while Ella frets and fears for his health. 

After the first act, each scene covers the same ground. It’s crushingly sad and just hammers the same message over and over and over. When Sutherland’s character eventually pines to be put of his misery, I found myself feeling the exact same way – please, let it end. As soon as possible, preferably. 

This could all be forgiven if the script delivered on its promise of octogenarian hijinks on the road, but it falls short. The occasional chuckle – one scene sees the couple held at knifepoint while changing a flat tyre with comical results – is suffocated by the thick fog of sadness and hopelessness that lingers in the air. Mirren and Sutherland, to their credit, deliver admirable performances (Mirren, you might recall, was even nominated for a Golden Globe). However, that's more or less where the commendable aspects end.

The Verdict: 3/10

The Leisure Seeker, like its frail characters, just shuffles around, biding time and waiting for the sweet embrace of the end. Hard pass.

The Leisure Seeker is in cinemas across Australia now.

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