The Accidental Tourist – Blu-ray Review

The Movie (4.5/5)

The experience of intense grief after the loss of a child or a young person in your life is one of the hardest things to grapple with. No matter what the circumstances are, the gaping hole that person leaves behind is impossible to fill, and can often acts much like a radioactive meltdown, tainting everything in its proximity for a period of time afterwards of unknown length, based on my own personal experience. Lawrence Kasdan’s The Accidental Tourist, a 1988 Warner Bros. production, is a film centered around such an experience, using it to explore the difficult process of learning to live again afterwards when faced with such a loss.

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The Accidental Tourist is the story of Macon Leary, an author who is best known for his work on travel guides that focus on making traveling to foreign locations feel as close to home and its various comforts as possible. Stricken by the loss of his son a year prior to the movie, its profound effects on his psyche cause him to pull away from his wife Sarah, and as a result their marriage falls apart, leaving him depressed and isolated. Facing difficulties maintaining his home alone. He moves in with his sister and two brothers, and sinks further into his shell of helplessness. In parallel, his publisher Julian attempts hunts him down to bring him back to the world, and an overly friendly dog trainer named Muriel interjects into his life forcefully, sparking a unique romance that, in attempt to return Macon to normalcy, just makes his life that much more confusing.

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The core of this film, whose screenplay was written by Kasdan and Frank Galati, explores the long term impacts of the loss of a child on its main character Macon. Throughout the film we are forced to watch as he pulls away from life, retreating to his family’s home where he’s taken care of by his sister, and encouraged by his brothers to find comfort in his retreat from social life. It presents a terrifying side of the experience of grieving, as Macon continues to live his life without his child, his will to live clearly gone. Macon’s books are a popular series on traveling to foreign locations while attempting to best emulate the qualities of home, but as a character he no longer seems to know what home is anymore for himself, or even wants to find one after the death of his son.

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At first glance, The Accidental Tourist is a bland, almost tone deaf effort from an otherwise talented cast and crew. William Hurt, who plays the lead character Macon, on the surface, is a bland, uninspired, and monotone shell of a man. He narrates his books without any significant energy, and his interactions with his wife, even as she requests a divorce from him early on in the film, are muted and mild, to say the least. If you were to assume that he was uninterested in his own life, you would not be entirely mistaken. As the plot slowly unfolds over the course of two hours, plot details are unveiled that justify his behavior; it was a brilliant move on director Kasdan’s part to have Hurt play the character in such a way, and it is a testament to Hurt’s skill as an actor that he can play a character like this without going too far to lose any sense of realism. He walks a fine line between dead on the inside and bored, which makes watching Muriel, played with the most natural awkwardness by Geena Davis, open him back up to the treasures of the world all the more rewarding.

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Thinking along these lines, The Accidental Tourist is fascinating as it inverts the typical Hollywood trends regarding women. In this film, Macon is abandoned by his wife, approached by an incredibly awkward, but forward and attractive woman, and his sister Rose, played by Amy Wright, is an older woman who slowly builds a relationship with Macon’s younger publisher Julian, played with youthful enthusiasm by Bill Pullman. Yes, this is Macon’s story and we see it all through his lens, but these strong, forceful women play such a large role in his life that it’s tough to ignore just how progressive this piece on grieving and life after loss is. The screenplay is rooted in these women’s strong traits, and it uses them as a playful tool to slowly coerce Macon back to life rather effectively.

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Narrative aside, The Accidental Tourist features a moving, but subtle John Williams composed score, and natural, warm, soft anamorphic photography by legendary cinematographer John Bailey, who has had a long history with director Lawrence Kasdan. Edited by his longtime collaborator Carol Littleton, the film moves slowly, giving us plenty of time to soak in each character detail, and each plot element. Much like Hurt’s performance, it straddles the line between slow and boring, and picks up as Macon finds his way again throughout the movie.

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The Accidental Tourist is a well made, moving picture. As someone who recently lost an older family member, it tapped into the raw feelings I still had regarding that emptiness left by the person, and is an incredibly relatable story. Bolstered by strong leading performances and excellent construction, the film is both an interesting and psychologically charged character piece on intense loss, and a hopeful film about the recovery thereafter.

The Video (4.5/5)

The Accidental Tourist was shot on 4-perf 35mm film with Panavision anamorphic lenses, resulting in a final projected image with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film is presented here in 1080p resolution, from a new 2K master prepared by the Warner Archive team in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

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As a result of the muted colors and graininess that 80s Kodak film stocks tended to have, in combination with those classic Panavision lenses, The Accidental Tourist is a soft, grain filled viewing experience. Detail is good during the film’s close up shots, but quickly falls off into the shallow depth of field of the anamorphic lens during mid and wide shots. It lends an almost dreamlike aesthetic to the film and its many locales. It compliments the film’s otherwise earthy, grounded color palette, resulting in an image that adds just a smidge of escapism to an otherwise serious character drama. The print has been cleaned thoroughly and is in immaculate shape. It won’t measure up to modern productions in terms of color saturation or image sharpness, but Warner Archive’s 1080p transfer of this 80s production is rock solid in every way.

The Audio (4/5)

The Accidental Tourist was presented in theaters with a stereo optical soundtrack on film prints. That presentation has been recreated here with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo soundtrack.

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As far as stereo soundtracks go, The Accidental Tourist is a no frills, basic presentation. John Williams’ score is well mixed into a dialogue heavy script with minimal room for sound effects or any real sense of scale. Don’t go in expecting Die Hard, and you surely won’t be disappointed with the track here, which is more than appropriate for the movie.

Special Features/Packaging (4/5)

The Accidental Tourist has been released to Blu-ray by Warner Archive in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The front artwork features a redesign of the film original poster artwork, with a depiction of Geena Davis as Muriel with all of the expensive goods she acquired in Paris, William Hurt as Macum prepared to travel in business attire, with Kathleen Turner as Macum’s ex-wife in the background, under the title and credits. The back features a picture of Macum and Muriel in a large red chair with Macum’s son’s dog, next to a review quote, two paragraphs about the film, a list of features, and a few other screencaps from the film. Below that is theatrical credits and technical specs for the release. An adequate package job from the Warner Archive folks.

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Onto the features:

Introduction by Lawrence Kasdan – an intro recorded for a previous DVD release of the film, in which Kasdan introduces the film, and describes what the audience is in for before diving in.

Commentary – 38 minutes worth of commentary from Geena Davis of various scenes. She discusses her performances, specific scene stories, and other aspects of the film.

It’s Like Life – a 13 minute DVD feature from 2003, in which Kasdan and other members of the cast discuss the themes of the film, and how it connects to our lives and our inability to control the world around us.

Lifted Scenes – 37 minutes worth of scenes that were removed from the film, or were edited out and changed into different scenes entirely. Presented in 4×3 pillar AND letterboxed, as this is a legacy extra.

Theatrical Trailer – the film’s trailer, as seen before its release in theaters in the late 1980s.

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While I could’ve used some new extras, this collection of legacy material makes for a wealth of content regarding the film, especially since there’s nearly 40 minutes of cut or alternate scenes on disc. The packaging is decent too, so consider this a solid release in this department.

Technical Specs (click for technical FAQs)

Video

Region Coding: None

Codec: AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio

DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo (English)

Subtitles

English

Runtime: 121 minutes

Overall (4.5/5)

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Directed with a tempered, deliberately mild hand by Lawrence Kasdan, and led by an understandably understated performance by William Hurt and a supporting cast featuring Geena Davis, who won an academy award for her performance, Kathleen Turner, Amy Wright, Bill Pullman, and David Ogden Steirs, The Accidental Tourist is a sad, but ultimately heartwarming piece of cinema about loss and recovery, in that order. Per their usual standards, Warner Archive has presented the film with an authentic and spotless 1080p film transfer, decent audio, and great packaging plus a complete set of legacy features. The Accidental Tourist is RECOMMENDED on Blu-ray.

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