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USA 1988
Directed by
Lawrence Kasdan
121 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Accidental Tourist

The Accidental Tourist, adapted by Kasdan and Frank Galati from a novel by Anne Tyler is a purposefully low key but surprisingly effective portrait of a middle-aged man's emotional awakening.

William Hurt plays Macon Leary, a travel-book writer who advises his readers on how to minimize disruption to their familiar routine when in foreign parts, an isolationist stance which eminently reflects his own personality.  Relatively speaking however he is the most adventurous of his grown siblings, Porter (David Ogden Stiers), Charles (Ed Begley Jr.) and sister Rose (Amy Wright ) who still live together in the house where they were all born and from whose reassuring familiarity they have no desire to leave. Macon at least married and had a child but when the story starts it has been a year since his son was senselessly murdered in a convenience store robbery and Macon’s wife, Sarah (Kathleen Turner), has left him. Looking for a place to board his dog, Macon meets Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis) a disarmingly cheery young woman who is determined to shake Macon out of his lethargy.

Although it is perfectly obvious how this scenario is going to play out it is the journey that matters here not the destination.  Macon and Muriel are richly drawn characters and Hurt and Davis are perfectly cast to play them.  Hurt dials down even further his characteristic phlegmaticism and thus makes Macon’s transformation well-earned when it comes very late in the film.  Davis doesn’t just play kooky. Beneath her buoyant exterior there is a responsible mother of a son with serious health issues and a desire for a caring relationship with another human being.  The evolution of their relationship is a pleasure to watch, with Turner returning to the fray to nicely complicated matters and lift the film above the usual rom-com template.

More certainly could have been made of Macon’s apparently dysfunctional family which is simply introduced as a given with no explanation of the Leary family psychology.  If for the most part this seems like potential wasted it becomes somewhat of an actual problem when it comes to Macon’s publisher, Julien (Bill Pullman) and his attraction to Rose.  Whilst there is nothing in the script to justify Julien’s coup de foudre infatuation with the rather mousey and presumably highly neurotic Rose, more importantly Pullman, whose demeanour sees him usually playing smart-alec characters, is badly mis-cast (someone like Wallace Shawn would have suited the part). The situation does lend itself to some comedic moments but it doesn’t have the emotional depth and insight of the Macon-Muriel-Sarah story.

FYI:  Kasdan, Hurt and Turner had kick-started their careers with Kasdan’s directorial debut, Body Heat in 1981 and Kasdan re-united with Hurt for the box-office hit The Big Chill in 1983.  




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