Picks and Pans Review: The Accidental Tourist

updated 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Delicate business is being transacted here. Anne Tyler's 10th novel, possibly her best, is melancholy, eccentric and poetically attuned to the nuances of the mundane. Hardly surefire film fodder. But director-co-writer Lawrence (The Big Chill) Kasdan has bravely stayed tone-true to Tyler. You won't find an ounce of Hollywood fat; just humor and heartbreak, superbly rendered. Still, the re-teaming of those Body Heat sexpots William Hurt and Kathleen Turner sets up the wrong expectations. Hurt—with thinning hair and bad posture—plays Macon Leary, a travel writer who despises leaving his Baltimore home. Macon's guidebooks are for unprepared tourists eager to guard against the onslaught of the unfamiliar. The luminous Turner is his wife, Sarah; she has left Macon because after the death of their 12-year-old son, murdered in a restaurant holdup, her withdrawn husband offered no comfort. But there's hope yet for Macon, whose antisocial Welsh corgi, Edward, leads him to redemption. Or rather to Muriel, a dog trainer who strives to bring Edward and Macon to heel. A weirdo divorcée with a sickly son (Robert Gorman), Muriel is determined to train Macon to think life, love and marriage. The marvelous Geena (Beetlejuice) Davis gives the role sass and spine. But the movie belongs to Hurt. A consummate actor at the top of his form, Hurt subtly uses looks and gestures to reveal the grief Macon cannot articulate. In the film's stunning final scene, shot in Paris, where Macon makes a crucial decision about the women in his life, the flush of hope on Hurt's face is Tyler's bracing prose incarnate. There may be bigger, costlier, weightier films this year. There's none lovelier. (PG)

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