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The Leisure Seeker (dir. Virzi)

Image: Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren in The Leisure Seeker © Property of Sony Pictures Classics [Source: IMDB]

 ★★☆☆☆

These two titans of the performative arts bring to life a runaway couple setting out on a voyage in their trusty old RV called The Leisure Seeker. What starts as an expedition of fun turns quickly into a bittersweet exploration of love and memories.

Director: Paolo Virzi. StarringDonald Sutherland, Helen Mirren [15]

By far the greatest moments in The Leisure Seeker are when Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren are flaunting their talents and sinking their teeth deep into their characters. To which are grounded but somewhat fluffed up representations of the reality, none the less they are resonating depictions and still hold some honesty towards the harshly real effects that dementia has. It’s through this exploration of dementia that the film achieves its most heartrending moments, delivering touchingly melancholic lines of dialogue, punched home by the effective subtleties of the winning performances from Mirren and Sutherland. Both convey the love and challenging nature of this sort of relationship and help bolster the poignancy of this story, even though it is certainly one that has been explored with more finesse.

Sutherland’s character is key to understand the messages behind the films normality, as he speaks of Hemingway and the falsely perceived banality of his simple writing technique. There is certainly a case to be made here for that perceived banality of these characters, challenged by the show of memories and John’s (Sutherland) life before the illness. Mirren’s cartoon accented Ella still holds all the complexity that drives the plot forward but stifling the growth and journey of the two leads is the uneven direction. As though the film is caught between arthouse deeply personal story of dementia and Adam Sandler’s latest flick. It’s never quite sure of what it wants to be, and the feel-good tone makes it all the more confusing, resulting in a unengagement with a good portion of the film.

This unengagement leads to a natural sigh of boredom as you watch the film push its clumsy emotional manipulation, but none of it lands or swoons. Thankfully there are certainly a few select moments that truly are tear-jerking, saved by an enthralling ending that leaves the film on a high note at the least. While The Leisure Seeker is unsure if it’s seeking leisure or something more insightful, it does deliver on the most part in being a touching exploration of love and more importantly dementia and the effects it has, with two outstanding performances that are wasted on stale direction.

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