Aug 31, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
We live in a death denying indeed a death defying society and I am society’s child. In fact, as a nation we would rather not mention that troublesome event at all. People pass away, expire, or “kick the bucket”. It would be morbid to dwell on the inevitable but perhaps it would dispel some of the fear that surrounds death if we came to terms with it. I see so many movies but the film that really resonated, that I reflect back on is The Leisure Seeker. It did not particularly impress the critics in this country. But I have a hunch it was better received over seas where they have a more intimate relationship with the grim reaper. It is also noteworthy that the writers, editor, composer, and cinematographer are all Italian. The stars are Helen Mirren who is British but of recent Russian descent and Donald Sutherland who is Canadian. Donald is actually 83 and Helen is 73. They are perfectly suited to their roles of a couple of 50 years. Donald is experiencing the middle stages of dementia and Helen is gravely ill evidenced by her pill-popping and her bouts of nausea. She is probably suffering from terminal cancer.
In what appears to be an irresponsible whim to their adult children but actually is a finely tuned plan engineered by Helen, the couple embarks on a road trip in their vintage R.V. christened The Leisure Seeker. The idea is take Donald from their home in Massachusetts to Florida so that Donald, a retired English professor, can finally see the home of his idol, Ernest Hemingway. Along the way long forgotten secrets bubble to the surface as well as adventures and misadventures. Donald stumbles onto a Trump rally and shows up with a “Make America Great Again” hat but is clueless as to the meaning. Then he accuses Helen of still being in love with an old boyfriend. This necessitates a detour to a nursing home where one of the residents is Dick Gregory who delivers one of the funniest cameos on celluloid. As their children fret and worry the couple meander from campground to hotel. Sutherland gives a nuanced performance of a brilliant mind that is diminishing. Mirren exudes a warmth and tenderness as she deals with her husband’s mental and her own physical decline.
This is not a depressing “downer”. Scattered throughout there is a great deal of comedy. The film is bittersweet.
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