The Leisure Seeker

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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My wife and I did it backwards. While living in Key West, we bought an RV camper to take trips to the north. However, in the movie “The Leisure Seeker,” we meet an older couple taking a trip from their home in Massachusetts to Key West in their lumbering Winnebago.

As part of Key West’s Bicentennial celebration, “The Leisure Seeker” will be having a repeat showing at Tropic Cinema.

In this English-language debut by Italian director Paolo Virzi, we find that The Leisure Seeker is actually the affectionate name given to John and Ella Spencer’s clunky old RV. John and Ella (beautifully played by Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren) are getting old and clunky too.

John is dealing with oncoming Alzheimer’s; his wife faces issues of her own.

Being that John is a retired English teacher with a penchant for Hemingway, they decide to take one final, ill-advised family road trip in their beloved RV, a journey to visit the Hemingway House in Key West. Despite his fading memory, John can recite long passages of Hemingway at the drop of a pen, but often finds himself unable to recall his wife’s name.

While the retired teacher can be stuffy, his wife is something of a Southern belle, as chatty and outgoing as an aging debutante. But her incessant whiskey-sipping and pill popping bespeaks of a bittersweet dénouement to this pilgrimage.

Viewers will enjoy this sentimental visit to Key West and tour of Ernest Hemingway’s stomping grounds as seen through outsiders’ eyes. But veteran director Virzi sometimes is challenged in keeping it lively, with the couple’s habit of “cluelessly talking strangers’ ears off about their favorite subjects” bordering on boring at times.

The biggest action scene is when John drives off in the RV, forgetting about his wife, forcing her to chase him down by hanging onto the back of a friendly motorcyclist.

Or the subtheme of John’s unreasoned jealousy over a man his wife may have had a fling with early on in their 50-year marriage, a slight he can’t let go. Or forget. A side trip to a retirement home with a shotgun is involved.

“The Leisure Seeker” is an affectionate film about aging, the titular RV being a metaphor for the entirely predictable destination. Sutherland and Mirren share occasional moments of truth along the way. The elements of confusion and memory loss force secrets to emerge, long-held frustrations and resentments bubble to the surface.

I sold my RV.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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