Donald Sutherland has done some of his best work playing rascally husbands (‘Six Degrees of Separation’, ‘Don’t Look Now’), while the regal Helen Mirren always brings crispness to the role of a woman in charge. Putting them together in ‘The Leisure Seeker’ as an elderly New England couple taking a last joyride in an old Winnebago should be a safe bet, then. Sadly, it turns out to be a schmaltzy disappointment.
After we’ve shaken off the annoying adult children (Christian McKay and Janel Moloney), the road trip kicks into gear. John (Sutherland), a former English teacher dimmed by dementia, wants to see Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West, while Ella (Mirren) knocks back whiskey to dull a malady of her own. Who knows what capers they’ll get up to? Well, you do, actually: there’s a flat tyre, a flirtation with a waitress and a syrupy trip down memory lane via a slide projector. Worst of all, an absent-minded John wanders into a Trump rally as the film flails for topicality.
There are quieter moments, during which the glances between Sutherland and Mirren suggest something worthier than the film they’re trapped in. But like a gut punch, ‘The Leisure Seeker’ takes a downbeat – and unmerited – turn late in the game. Both of these great stars deserve much richer material than this.