A runaway couple go on an unforgettable journey in the faithful old RV they call The Leisure Seeker, traveling from Boston to The Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West. They recapture their passion for life and their love for each other on a road trip that provides revelation and surprise right up to the very end.
It was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival. See more »
Various locales throughout Key West and the Florida Keys are used as locations along the Atlantic coastal states (i.e., Key West's Higgs Beach is a stand-in for a locale outside the state). Key West's South Roosevelt Boulevard and its adjacent Smathers Beach are also used as a locale somewhere on the Florida mainland. In addition, numerous scenes that are supposed to take place in Key West actually were filmed in Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key, and other areas in the Lower Keys (i.e, Fisherman's Hospital - which is prominently shown as being in Key West - is located nearly 30 miles away in Big Pine Key). The RV park also shown is quite clearly at Bahia Honda State Park as the closest RV park to Key West - Boyd's RV Campground - has no water access, though on screen their RV is parked right at the water's edge. A scene where the leads get on a trolley ride through Key West also clearly begins at the Welcome Center at Bahia Honda State Park, roughly 37 miles away from Key West proper, though in the next shot, the trolley is in Key West. (Electrically-powered and propane-powered vehicles such as tourist trolleys would never be allowed to go over the Florida Keys' many bridges and highways, nor would anyone wish to do so, as said vehicles have little in the way of shock absorption.) See more »
Winning performances from the two legendary leads can't overcome the lazy writing and uneven directing.
"The Leisure Seeker" (R, 1:52) is a 2017 comedy-drama directed by Paolo Virzì (helming his first English-language feature film) and based on the 2009 novel of the same name by American novelist and short story writer Michael Zadoorian. The film follows an elderly married couple on a road trip in their 1975 Winnebago from their home in Massachusetts to Key West, one last big vacation, planned by Ella Spencer (Oscar winner Dame Helen Mirren) so her husband, John (2-time Golden Globe winner and honorary Oscar recipient Donald Sutherland), can finally visit the home of his idol, Ernest Hemingway.
The couple's adult children, Will (BAFTA nominee Christian McKay) and Jane (Janel Moloney, a TV veteran, best known for "The West Wing"), come close to panic when they realize their parents have left home in that old RV of the film's title. Not only are Ella and John old, but Ella is in treatment for an unspecified illness and John, who does all the driving, has unspecified memory issues. Ella sometimes calls to check in and even answers her children's cell phone calls on occasion, but only to reassure them that the couple is alright - not to reveal their location or destination - or to be talked out of anything.
While Will and Jane stew (especially the high-strung Will) and argue, Ella and John have the vacation of a lifetime. Along the way, they meet people to whom they talk at length (Ella about her family and John about Hemingway), strengthen their bonds with each other, relive old memories (partly to reminisce and partly to help John hold on to those memories) and they struggle with the effects of their respective illnesses. There's also a subplot in which John repeatedly accuses Ella of wanting to go to Florida to reconnect with her boyfriend from 50 years ago. However, none of this takes their focus off the goal of reaching Key West - allowing questions about past relationships and current situations to be answered.
"The Leisure Seeker" takes Movie Fans on a charming, but uncomfortable trip. Mirren and Sutherland make for an adorable couple (especially Mirren, doing well with a South Carolina accent), but it's more uncomfortable than entertaining to watch Ella and John suffer (especially when Ella alternates between being sympathetic to John and acting like she doesn't understand what's going on) and also struggle to come to terms with their mortality. The pleasure in watching these two fine actors create and develop these likeable characters is more than outweighed by lazy writing & plotting and uneven directing. "C+"
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