TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 09: Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland attend ‘The Leisure Seeker’ premiere during the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/WireImage)
  • Festivals

Paolo Virzì’s “Leisure Seeker “ Lands in Toronto

Paolo Virzì’s The Leisure Seeker is among the several films which world premiered at the Venice Film Festival before bowing in North America in Toronto. Virzì is less known than Italian compatriots like Paolo Sorrentino, Matteo Garrone or Nanni Moretti but he has been a solid chronicler of his generation, with personal stories mostly centered around his native Tuscan city of Livorno.

With his latest film, he takes a bold step beyond national boundaries with a tale adapted from Michael Zadoorian’s 2009 novel of the same title. The story sees long married couple John (Donald Sutherland) and Ella (Helen Mirren) leave their New England home and, much to the chagrin of their adult children, take to the road in an old Winnebago. For John, who is in the advancing stages of Alzheimer’s and Ella, diagnosed with cancer, it is a last hurrah which is also an attempt to reclaim a fading identity and restate the bond of a lifetime.

Virzì has utilized the road-movie trope before in his native country (most notably in last years’Like Crazy (La Pazza Gioia) which has been called a revisiting of Thelma and Louise). Here, like Sorrentino before him, he literally ventures on foreign territory with a drive through America which takes the eighty-something easy riders on a trip to Florida. And he has at his disposal the considerable talents of to legends of the caliber of Mirren (14 nominations and three Golden Globes) and Sutherland (eight nominations and two Globes).

Both veterans stopped by the HFPA TIFF suite and regaled us with stories from half a century of film recollections. Sutherland recalled his 1968 cross-country drive in a vintage Ferrari which ended with a hefty speeding ticket and his exchanging the pricey race car for a VW van. The actor, who will be collecting a lifetime achievement Oscar next year, also recounted of his recent reunion with Jane Fonda when they were both in Venice last month. Helen Mirren reflected on the deeper theme of the movie, finding the essence of  a long-lasting life relationship: “we’re all individuals and of course we can make wonderful partnerships with other individuals but it doesn’t stop you from being an individual and I think in a way that’s a little part of what this movie is about that people are not necessarily especially women are not necessarily defined and they become defined by their family and their children and their now grandchildren and wa wa, you know, but actually, you know, we’re all individual personalities and with  our own identities and I think that’s a little bit of what this movie is about.”