The Leisure Seeker is Italian director Paolo Virzi’s first English-language feature — and it clearly struck a chord with the local audience here at the Venice Film Festival today. (That’s despite downbeat reviews from mainstream U.S. critics.) Social and local media have also gone mad for the film’s leads, Dame Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.
The pair was essentially mobbed after the SRO Leisure Seeker press conference this afternoon. When the last question was answered, a giant crowd leaped en masse towards the dais at which point Sutherland, who may not have realized he was on a hot mic, exclaimed “Holy sh*t!”
He and Mirren reunite in The Leisure Seeker for the first time since 1990’s Bethune: The Making Of A Hero. They play a married couple still deeply in love after 50 years and on a final road trip down the East Coast of the U.S.
Sutherland’s John is a former English professor suffering from increasing dementia and Mirren is Ella, a homemaker who is trying to manage her own illness while determined to get them to the Hemingway House in Key West as a last bucket list item.
Sutherland, who has extra street cred here having appeared in Federico Fellini’s Casanova and other Italian movies, complimented Virzi today for “an extraordinary vision of truth and understanding of a particular condition that I was familiar with, and it seemed like the best idea in the world.”
Mirren said Ella “is a reflection of the way I hope to live my life. I loved the character because she is facing the end of her life full of energy that I hope I can maintain to the end of my days. I certainly have it now.”
The Leisure Seeker heads to Toronto next week and will be released domestically by Sony Pictures Classics on January 19.