The Accidental Tourist (1988)
I really wanted to like this movie. It’s got two of my favorite things in it: dogs and travel. It also has a man who hardly cares for either. I gave an involuntary shiver at him searching for American cuisine in foreign countries – I mean eating Burger King in PARIS? Sinful. That hurt me just a little bit.
Anyway, William Hurt stars as Macon Leary (what kind of a name is that anyway?) and he dispassionately writes travel guides for people who hate traveling. A travesty, yet I guess someone’s gotta do it, so it should probably be Macon Leary. We meet him at the beginning of the movie in an ICU gazing over his son’s dead body. He and his wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner) take it hard, but they’re having difficulty coming together over it. So she leaves him. And leaves the dog. Macon falls down some stairs, screwing his mobility and goes to stay with his weird siblings. They play funny games. His editor, Julian (Bill Pullman) comes to see him sometimes. He likes his sister.
Then he meets Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis). She’s kind of awesome, but also kind of eccentric and definitely quirky. She’s talkative and forward, and knows a lot about dogs. He hires her to help him train his own dog. Then they fall in love, or whatever. Then everything comes to a big wha-bam in Paris, of course. The end.
Before you write me off completely, I emphasize that my low opinion has NOTHING to do with it being slow. On the contrary, I love slow, quiet films (84 Charing Cross Road for example). What I didn’t like had nothing to do with the story. It’s like I could see, even almost taste, the beauty and potential of an emotional connection but I was just never truly moved. The letdown was even more potent with that in mind.
I’ve always loved William Hurt, but the man disappointed me with this one. It didn’t feel like a story of a hurt man who needs a little attention and lovin’ to make his way to recovery. No, he was static, he was expressionless. How could the fiery Muriel even dream of falling in love with him? His personal journey seemed superficial at best. He doesn’t even like his own dog…
Geena Davis, on the other hand, was great. She manages to play the wacky woman with just enough umph yet still grounded in reality to make her likable and not overbearing. She’s a realistic mother, looking after her son with great care and love. She’s also realistic in her relationship with Macon.
I’ll admit, the writing is excellent. Kasdan and Frank Galati know how to run things, and on paper it portrays the beauty that could not be captured on screen. Something is missing. I found myself searching for emotion, something that only Davis gave to me. Okay scratch that, the other actors were also pretty solid (though I don’t care for Kathleen Turner too much), but I did love Macon’s crazy family surroundings and the family dynamic. As well as Bill Pullman.
The Accidental Tourist was a disappointment. I wouldn’t go so far as to give up on it forever, but it’d take a lot of will power to get myself to sit through Macon’s monotonous personality for an additional hour and a half. 4/10