Tropic Sprockets / The Leisure Seeker

By Ian Brockway

Despite the best of intent, director Paulo Virzi (Like Crazy) has made an uninspired and depressing road trip film titled “The Leisure Seeker,” about an older couple who want to make it to Key West’s Hemingway House for one last hurrah. The bottom line is that as trip films go (and there have been so many) not much happens here. Events unfold in a formulaic manner using the vocabulary of a sitcom. But the biggest surprise is that even with the star power of Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren, the melodrama stays in second or third gear.

Things are hammy from the start. Son Will (Christian McKay) is shocked to find his parents missing from the house. He sputters impotently, fumbling with his phone. Mom and Dad took the RV and left, God knows where. As it turns out, John and Ella Spencer (Sutherland and Mirren, repectively) are going to visit Hemingway’s spirit in Key West. While the daughter (Janel Maloney) is surprised but unfazed, Will storms about and McKay chews the scenery to shreds.

Meanwhile, John drives down US 1, alternately happy, worried and spaced out. Despite his stature as a cinema legend, it is obvious Sutherland is acting in his role and he is not quite authentic or believable.

The couple gets stopped by police, the RV breaks down and the two get nearly mugged but all of it is strikingly uninteresting, as if a paint by numbers production. There is no dramatic tension in any one of these episodes.

Worse yet, there is precious little of Key West. After the camper breaks, the couple stops along the road seemingly right after leaving somewhere in the Deep South and voila!: There they are somewhere, presumably in mainland Florida, but wait, it is Higgs Beach. The locations are out of sync.
Ella talks about missing John and John talks about missing Hemingway but it all feels robotic and manufactured.

These two usually wonderful actors don’t have much to emote or engage in. Much of the film is taken up with Sutherland saying “Ella, where are we?” or talking about the energy of the “great poet” Ernest, but none of it goes anywhere. There are tiny bits illustrating the nationalist fervor of Trump, but these small scenes are left without much commentary, except to illustrate that John and Ella are Democrats.The one bright spot is the outrageous anger of an old boyfriend played by Dick Gregory who is very funny and seemingly all the more so because the film feels so forced and rote.

Those looking for the charms of our last resort will be disappointed. The ill-fated 90s sitcom “Key West” embodied more of the island’s quirk than this film does. Suffice to say, this is no luxury ride to paradise. The ending is an emphatic bummer, not fit for a woman supposedly so taken with life and her husband.

To say “The Leisure Seeker” is far from uplifting is an understatement. By the end credits you may well be overdue for a margarita or a coffee, grasping for any respite to repel this oddly flat and routine film.

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