Plot: John (Donald Sutherland) has always had a sharp mind, he was a respected teacher with a steel trap brain that could recall countless passages from master writers, as well as detail what all those words might mean. His detail oriented mind has suffered as he has grown old however, with dementia creeping in and eroding his mental process until he often doesn’t even remember his own wife. He’s been married to Ella (Helen Mirra) for almost five decades and while her casual, homespun persona is a drastic shift from John’s intellectual, pretentious style, the two have enjoyed a mostly pleasant marriage with a lot of great memories. As she struggles with sometimes losing her beloved husband when his mind slips, Ella also has concerns of her own, as she is having health issues that she medicates with both prescriptions and alcohol. As both head toward bleak futures, Ella decides to take a risk and go on one last road trip, one they have always talked about, but never embarked upon. The two set out in their trusty RV The Leisure Seeker and while everyone else thinks it is a terrible idea, Ella sees it as a chance to make a few memories and perhaps rediscover the spark of her marriage one final time, before it’s too late.
Entertainment Value: I like the premise of The Leisure Seeker, as an old couple takes one last adventure before riding into the sunset, but despite that concept and terrific leads, the movie fails to make the most of those elements. The narrative starts off well enough, but soon veers down an inconsistent path and never seems to settle on what it wants to be. The tone is erratic and seems to want to be mean spirited and sentimental in the same breath, not an easy task and one that this script can’t handle. The writing is passable, but unremarkable and aside from a few bursts of genuine emotion, fails to get much right. The humor lands here and there, but not consistently, while the pace is on the slow side and often feels bogged down by the weak dialogue. The characters are interesting and well performed, but the script is just not good and feels like mostly filler elements. I do think the strength of the leads carries the movie at times and those stretches are fun to watch, but there’s only so much even these two can do with mediocre material. I can’t recommend The Leisure Seeker, but fans of the leads might find it worth looking into, despite the flaws.
The leads are the strongest ingredient in The Leisure Seeker, as Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren both show up to work and turn in good performances, but the weak script just lets them down. Sutherland is given a character that should be quite interesting, a man with a gifted mind who finds that mind eroding, a concept that is all too real and packs an emotional punch. But the script dampens that potential and opts for a less realistic approach and dials up the drama, when I think a more grounded take could have yielded better results. Sutherland just performs well, but he can’t work miracles and despite his good effort, the character doesn’t resonate. Helen Mirren shines a little more since her character is given a little more to work with, but her vast talents go mostly untapped here as well. But again, both perform well and elevate the material, even if they can’t salvage it. The cast also includes Christian McKay, Dick Gregory, Dana Ivey, and Janel Moloney.