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The Accidental Tourist

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Rent The Accidental Tourist on Fandango at Home, Prime Video, or buy it on Fandango at Home, Prime Video.

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Generous with its characters' foibles and virtues, The Accidental Tourist is a thoughtful drama vested with insight into the complications of relationships.

Critics Reviews

Audience reviews, cast & crew.

Lawrence Kasdan

William Hurt

Macon Leary

Kathleen Turner

Sarah Leary

Geena Davis

Muriel Pritchett

Bill Pullman

More Like This

Movie news & guides, this movie is featured in the following articles..

Movie Reviews

Tv/streaming, collections, great movies, chaz's journal, contributors, the accidental tourist.

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"Yes, that is my son," the man says, identifying the body in the intensive care unit. Grief threatens to break his face into pieces, and then something closes shut inside of him. He has always had a very controlled nature, fearful of emotion and revelation, but now a true ice age begins, and after a year his wife tells him she wants a divorce. It is because he cannot seem to feel anything.

"The Accidental Tourist" begins on that note of emotional sterility, and the whole movie is a journey toward a smile at the end.

The man's name is Macon Leary ( William Hurt ), and he writes travel books for people who detest traveling. He advises his readers on how to avoid human contact, where to find "American food" abroad and how to convince themselves they haven't left home. His own life is the same sort of journey, and maybe it began in childhood. His sister and two brothers still live together in the house where they were born, and any life outside of their routine would be unthinkable.

Macon's wife ( Kathleen Turner ) moves out, leaving him with the dog, Edward, who does like to travel and is deeply disturbed by the curious life his masters have provided for him. He barks at ghosts and snaps at strangers. It is time for Macon to make another one of his overseas research trips, so he takes the dog to be boarded at a kennel, and that's where he meets Muriel Pritchett ( Geena Davis ). Muriel has Macon's number from the moment he walks through the door. She can see he's a basket case, but she thinks she can help. She also thinks her young son needs a father.

Macon isn't so sure. He doesn't use the number she gives him. But later, when the dog trips him and he breaks his leg, he takes Edward back to the kennel, and this time he submits to a little obedience training of his own. He agrees to acknowledge that Muriel exists, and before long they are sort of living together (lust still exists in his body, but it lurks so far from the center of his feelings that sex hardly seems to cheer him up).

The peculiarity about these central passages in the film is that they are quite cheerful and sometimes even very funny, even though Macon himself is mired in a deep depression. Davis, as Muriel, brings an unforced wackiness to her role in scenes like the one where she belts out a song while she's doing the dishes. But she is not as simple as she sometimes seems, and when Macon gets carried away with a little sentimental generalizing about the future, she warns him, "Don't make promises to my son that you are not prepared to keep." There is also great good humor in the characters in Macon's family: brothers Porter ( David Ogden Stiers ) and Charles ( Ed Begley Jr.) and sister Rose ( Amy Wright ), a matriarch who feeds the family, presides over their incomprehensible card games and supervises such traditional activities as alphabetizing the groceries on the kitchen shelves. One evening Macon takes his publisher, Julien ( Bill Pullman ), home to dinner and Julien is struck with a thunderbolt of love for Rose. He eventually marries her, but a few weeks later Julien tells Macon that Rose has moved back home with the boys; she was concerned that they had abandoned regular meals and were eating only gorp.

This emergency triggers the movie's emotional turning point, which is subtle but unmistakable. Nobody knows Rose as well as Macon does, and so he gives Julien some very particular advice: "Call her up and tell her your business is going to pieces. Ask if she could just come in and get things organized. Get things under control. Put it that way.

Use those words. Get things under control, tell her." In context, this speech is hilarious. It is also the first time in the film that Macon has been able to extend himself to help anybody, and it starts him on the road to emotional growth. Clinging to the sterility and loneliness that has been his protection, he doesn't realize at first that he has turned the corner. He still doubts that he needs Muriel, and when she buys herself a ticket and follows him to Paris, he refuses to have anything to do with her. When his wife also turns up in Paris, there is a moment when he thinks they may be able to patch things together again, and then finally Macon arrives at the sort of moment he has been avoiding all of his life: He has to make a choice. But by then the choice is obvious; he has already made it, by peeking so briefly out of his shell.

The screenplay for "The Accidental Tourist," by Kasdan and Frank Galati , is able to reproduce a lot of the tone and dialogue of the Anne Tyler novel without ever simply being a movie version of a book. The textures are too specific and the humor is too quirky and well-timed to be borrowed. The filmmakers have reinvented the same story in their own terms. The movie is a reunion for Kasdan, Hurt and Turner, who all three launched their careers with " Body Heat " (1981). Kasdan used Hurt again in " The Big Chill " (1983) and understands how to employ Hurt's gift for somehow being likable at the same time he seems to be withdrawn.

What Hurt achieves here seems almost impossible: He is depressed, low-key and intensely private through most of the movie, and yet somehow he wins our sympathy. What Kasdan achieves is just as tricky; I've never seen a movie so sad in which there was so much genuine laughter. "The Accidental Tourist" is one of the best films of the year.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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The Accidental Tourist movie poster

The Accidental Tourist (1989)

121 minutes

Kathleen Turner as Sarah

William Hurt as MacOn

Ed Begley Jr. as Charles

David Ogden Stiers as Porter

Geena Davis as Muriel

Amy Wright as Rose

Bill Pullman as Julian

Robert Gorman as Alexander

Bradley Mott as Mr. Loomis

Screenplay by

  • Frank Galati
  • John Williams

Produced by

  • Charles Okun
  • Michael Grillo

Photographed by

  • John Bailey
  • Carol Littleton

Based On The Novel by

Directed by.

  • Lawrence Kasdan

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The Accidental Tourist

The Accidental Tourist

  • An emotionally distant writer of travel guides must carry on with his life after his son is killed and his marriage crumbles.
  • After the death of his son, Macon Leary, a travel writer, seems to be sleep walking through life. Macon's wife, seems to be having trouble too, and thinks it would be best if the two would just split up. After the break up, Macon meets a strange outgoing woman, who seems to bring him back down to earth. After starting a relationship with the outgoing woman, Macon's wife seems to think that their marriage is still worth a try. Macon is then forced to deal many decisions — Justin Sharp <[email protected]>
  • After the murder of their young son, the marriage between Macon and his wife Sarah disintegrates, and she moves out. After a freak accident puts him on crutches, Macon goes to stay with his quirky siblings at the family home, where he meets the spirited Muriel, a dog trainer with a young son of her own, with whom he begins a friendship. When Sarah learns about this, she attempts a reconciliation and Macon is forced to make a decision. — Jwelch5742
  • Macon Leary is the author of a travel book for people who want to travel with the minimum fuss and as little impact as possible on their lives. Arriving back from a working trip, his wife announces she can no longer deal with the fact that he is dealing with the death of their son the same way that he travels: with minimum impact. Macon subsequently meets the quirky Muriel, who it seems is just the opposite to Macon. — Murray Chapman <[email protected]>
  • Macon Leary (William Hurt) is a Baltimore writer of travel guides for reluctant business travelers, which detail how best to avoid unpleasantness and difficulty. His marriage to his wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner) is disintegrating in the aftermath of the murder of their 12 year-old son, Ethan (Seth Granger). Sarah feels living with Macon she is losing the will to live and wants to reset her life. Sarah is also angry that Macon has no passion or loud emotions, he is very subdued. Sarah eventually leaves Macon, moving out of their house and into an apartment. Macon has a bad back that keeps resurfacing. Macon is pursued by Muriel Pritchet (Geena Davis), an animal hospital employee (Macon had met Muriel when he had to leave his dog with her at her hospital for care-taking, when he had to go away on a business trip. Macon was desperate as his regular animal shelter had refused to take in Edward due to his biting habit) and dog trainer with a sickly son Alexander Pritchett (Robert Hy Gorman) (Alexander is allergic to many many things and is almost always at the doctor's). Muriel is very chatty, while Macon is the quiet, reserved type. After he falls down the basement stairs and breaks his leg, Macon returns to his childhood home to stay with his eccentric siblings. Rose Leary (Amy Wright), Porter Leary (David Ogden Stiers) & Charles Leary (Ed Begley Jr.). Rose is super organized and has kind of like an OCD. Macon eventually hires Muriel to put his dog Edward through much-needed obedience training (as it was Edward which led to Macon falling down the basement stairs in his house. Plus Edwars also attacked Macon's employer Julian Edge (Bill Pullman) when he came to visit him at his sibling's house) (Julin also reminds Macon that he is running very late with his guidebook). Although Muriel at first seems brash and unsophisticated (she thinks Rose is Macon's ex-wife or something till he corrects her that Rose is his sister), Macon eventually finds himself opening up to her and trusting her (She is able to train Edward and befriend Macon in the process). Muriel had got married because she got pregnant, but then something went wrong during the pregnancy and Alexander was taken out by c section early. Muriel can never have kids again. Julian, meanwhile is attracted to Rose and joins the family for dinner to spend more time with her. One day Macon criticizes Rose's cooking (she had cooked the turkey at a wrong temperature), in front of Julian. Rose gets real upset and she thinks Macon wants her to take care of the boys forever and is thus trying to drive Julian away from her. Muriel continues to pursue Macon and invites him over for dinner at her place.. Macon is very resistant and tries to get out of it by saying something came up. But Muriel confronts Macon and he reveals that just last yr he lost his son in a holdup at an hamburger joint. Hence he is not ready to socialize yet, nor spend time with Alexander. Muriel quietly hugs Macon and wins him over. She takes him to her bed and they snuggle. Macon spends more and more time at Muriel's and gets more involved in their lives. eventually Macon moves in with Muriel Macon completes his book and delivers it to Julian. Julian tells Macon that he is going to propose to Rose. Porter talks to Macon and tries to warn him and say that Muriel is not good for him.. Macon wouldn't have any of it, and instead finds himself bonding with Alexander (taking him clothes shopping and saving him from school bullies). Macon wants to put Alexander into private school and this upsets Muriel as Macon is not sure if he is committed to her for the next 10 yrs or not.. Muriel tells Macon that he is not sure of what he wants and wants him to get himself sorted. Macon says he doesn't want to get married and this upsets Muriel even more. Rose gets married to Julian. Sarah is Rose's Matron of Honor. When Sarah's apartment lease is up, she moves back into their old home and suggests to Macon that they start over. Macon leaves Muriel, and he and Sarah set up house once more. Meanwhile Rose has moved back as she worried about her brothers without her to take care of them. Macon suggests Julian that Rose has OCD and he should give her some organizing job that she can immerse herself into. When Macon visits Paris for research, Muriel surprises him by showing up on the same flight and stays in the same Paris hotel, recommended by Macon in one of his travel guides. She suggests that they enjoy themselves as if they are vacationing together. Macon insists he is there strictly for business, and although he shows concern for how Alexander is doing, keeps Muriel at arm's length. During Macon's last night in Paris, Muriel asks to go with him, and despite an early flight she tells him he doesn't have to reply just now. Waking up in the middle of the night Macon decides to call Muriel but his telephone malfunctions. Macon gets up and while trying to fix the cord, hurts his back and becomes bedridden. Muriel knocks on his door waking him up but before he can decide what to do Muriel assumes he has gone already and leaves. Mustering the strength to go to the front desk, Macon phones Julian (and finds that Rose is now working for Julian and organized the entire office) to inform him of his back pain. Sarah comes to Paris (This was also organized by Rose), to care and make day-trips for him in order to complete his travel guide. Sarah proposes that after finishing the day trips if he is feeling better they can go sightseeing, reschedule the flight for a latter date and make the trip a second honeymoon to which Macon agrees. However, Sarah tells him that she has run into Muriel when she arrived and as such continues to question Macon about his attraction to Muriel, angering Macon. The next morning, Macon dresses while Sarah still sleeps, then wakes her to tell her that he is going back to Muriel. On his way to the airport, Macon spots Muriel hailing a taxi and tells the driver to stop. Thinking the driver stopped for her, Muriel bends to gather her luggage and catches sight of Macon in the taxi. She smiles, and Macon returns the smile.

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After the death of his son, travel writer Macon Leary seems to be sleep walking through life. Macon's wife is having similar problems. They separate, and Macon meets a strange, outgoing woman who brings him 'back down to earth', but his wife soon thinks their marriage is still worth another try.

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