There’s certainly a market for films like The Leisure Seeker, and that market is growing. As baby boomers continue to age, their massive population bloc will inevitably gravitate precisely to this sort of senior empowerment wish-fulfillment fantasy, meaning production companies will continue to churn them out — that is, at least, until their disposable income dries up and they’re relegated to weekday matinees and therefore cease to be relevant when it comes to ticket sales. But for now, we’re getting things like this utterly forgettable piece of ageist elder exploitation.
And when I say forgettable, I mean that literally. I completely forgot that I had screened this film until it was time to write up this week’s reviews. At least to some degree, that forgetability stems from a trite and predictable story with a climax that you’ll see coming from a mile away. The narrative follows an aging couple, played expertly by Donald Sutherland and Hellen Mirren, who set out on one last road trip in their beat-up old Winnebago, dubbed “The Leisure Seeker.” John (Sutherland) is suffering from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia — the exact nature of his problem is never made clear, only that his memory is failing him. Ella (Mirren) is determined to relive their family road trips one last time, in spite of strenuous objections from the couple’s adult children (Christian McKay, Janel Moloney). From there, things go exactly where you’d expect, and it takes about as long to get there as the titular RV.
A far more interesting version of this story could be made as a horror movie from the progeny’s perspective, but The Leisure Seeker seems content to gloss over the real-world implication of its story. Obviously, Mirren and Sutherland are both exceptional performers and make the most of what they’re given here. But what they’re working with is a tired pastiche of cliches and condescension, striving for heart but only attaining saccharinity. The overly sentimental portrait of the twilight years on display here is as vacuous and uninspired as Italian director Paolo Virzi’s visual acumen is blunt and styleless. Having never heard of Virzi before, I feel confident that I can relegate him to the trash heap of forgotten directors with no consequence or remorse.
In effect, The Leisure Seeker is a film engineered to exploit a very specific audience that may have little more use or patience for it than the rest of the population. Its languid pacing, shallow character development and contrived plot twists leave nothing to the imagination and little to recommend the film to even the most desperate of theatergoers. Nostalgia or some misguided sense of shared experience may drive some to engage with Sutherland’s performance or the movie’s insipid ’70s soundtrack, but does that constitute adequate justification for seeing a movie? Or making one, for that matter? Seek your leisure elsewhere. Rated R for some sexual material.
Now Playing at Grail Moviehouse.