The Leisure Seeker is a vehicle, specifically a 1975 Winnebago driven by Donald Sutherland’s English teacher John Spencer. This is the first of many small reveals in Paolo Virzi’s American road movie, that of course is shot and directed by Italians and starring a a Canadian (Sutherland, a gem), and Helen Mirren as a Southerner, Ella (Mirren also somehow pulling it off, because of course she does). The film feels a little non-American documenting the Atlantic coast, a little like Sutherland’s Don’t Look Now but in reverse, and also a little bit of an excursion from Massachusetts to the Florida Keys.
The film doesn’t always move fast, as a series of slide shows and character reveals fill the action in place of faster moving sequences. In fact, the biggest revelations about what is happening as a part of the trip arrive without a big pronouncement and often goes unnoticed if not for an observant audience. Above all, the destination of going to see Ernest Hemingway’s home sees Sutherland regaling a series of glazed-over looking servers with literary analysis. Mirren instead is a little more arch and serves to remind a few of a mother-in-law type.
Meanwhile, their fully grown kids are at home nervously awaiting word (along with a neighbour), but this trip belongs to the elderly. Mirren is masterful and wears her horrid wig well and Sutherland gives a sadly too believable performance and is a long way from his President Snow from The Hunger Games. The screenplay, which has four credited writers, perhaps could have fleshed out some of the supporting cast that are encountered along the way. But again, the movie belongs to the leads and is shot beautifully by Luca Bigazzi. The pace is perhaps a tad too Leisurely and the main reveal comes at the end and doesn’t provide a true element of surprise. It seems as though it was heading this way from the start, but it still makes Mirren and Sutherland pleasant company.