The Accidental Tourist-1988
Starring-William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Geena Davis
Scott’s Review #1,215
Reviewed January 1, 2022
Reuniting stars William Hurt and Kathleen Turner from 1981’s smoldering Body Heat, director Lawrence Kasdan creates a triangle of sorts with the addition of Geena Davis in The Accidental Tourist (1988). She brings a quirky character to the fold in a film about death, tragedy, and a disintegrating marriage.
Despite the subject matter, it’s not a downer at all but rather a romantic drama brimming with rich characters and relatable situations. There are laugh-out-loud moments and there are tender moments all about the human spirit and choices we must make.
It’s an above-average flick that received several Oscar nominations and feels patterned after a Woody Allen-style film. I didn’t necessarily relate to any of the characters nor need to see the film a second time but I respect that Kasdan creates a picture not needing car chases or gratuitous violence or nudity.
The Accidental Tourist is a quiet film about life. It is based on the 1985 novel of the same name written by Anne Tyler.
When their young son is suddenly murdered, the marriage between Macon (Hurt) and his wife Sarah (Turner) flounders, and she moves out. After an accident puts him on crutches, Macon goes to stay with his quirky siblings at the family home, where he meets the high-spirited Muriel (Geena Davis).
She is a dog trainer with a young son of her own. Macon develops a slow friendship with them that surprisingly blossoms into more with Muriel. When Sarah learns about the situation, she attempts a reconciliation with Macon who is forced to make a painful decision.
The intention feels like we, the audience, are supposed to root for Macon and Muriel to get together and not feel much sympathy for Sarah but I did. After all, she is the one ultimately ditched and there is nothing like a woman scorned.
I didn’t feel like there was even much of a triangle because the film is centered around Hurt’s character and the choices Macon must face. It’s about how he deals with change and the unexpected turns of events that life can throw at anybody. Sarah and Muriel must also deal with the same choices and life circumstances but the focus is more on Macon.
The viewer will likely immerse themselves in these characters as they think about their own life and trials and tribulations that have occurred.
Though I never read the novel I suspect it is a tad better than the film which limits the amount of time to explore the characters. Novels always have more time to delve deeper.
With that said I got a fair share of backstory about Macon, Muriel, and Sarah but didn’t gravitate to any of them over the others.
Regarding the earlier note about The Accidental Tourist being like a Woody Allen film, it has an upbeat, quirky tone that masks much of the heartbreak Macon suffers from with some added comedy. When Muriel hops a flight to Paris to follow her heart and Macon it’s something a character in an Allen film would do.
Since Macon is a writer of travel guides the film contains rich flavor for culture and tourism which is pleasing. London and Paris are the central locales and Kadan does a great job at the international stuff.
A tad long and dragging at times The Accidental Tourist (1988) has enough juiciness to keep any viewer attracted to well-written screenplays about emotional characters and the ups and downs of life satisfied.
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress-Geena Davis (won), Best Screenplay-Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Original Score