A little over a week ago on cable I stumbled across the movie “The Accidental Tourist” just as it began on a night when I had the time to watch it. The story is just odd enough to be interesting to me and I have always enjoyed William Hurt and Geena Davis’s work. The 1988 movie also features Kathleen Turner in her years before rheumatoid arthritis and alcohol abuse took their toll on her.
“The Accidental Tourist” revolves around Macon, who writes travel guides and had a son who was killed in a shooting at a fast-food restaurant. He and his wife Sarah lose each other in the grief of the loss. With their marriage disintegrating, she eventually moves out. Macon meets Muriel, a unique young woman with more than a few quirks who has a sickly son. He hires her to train his unruly dog, and before long finds himself drifting into a relationship with the mother and son.
The movie version of Anne Tyler’s novel has a generally somber tone about it, but there are some very funny parts. The main character’s middle aged sister and two brothers all live together and have odd habits including alphabetizing the groceries in the kitchen cabinets and ignoring the ringing telephone. That’s makes for some very entertaining moments.
There’s also some good observation humor in “The Accidental Tourist” that brought a smile to hear it again: “Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul – chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth!” There’s more including: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” And one more: “See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.”
While the humor and uniqueness of the characters in the movie is interesting, it is really the love story portion that caught and held my attention. I recalled enjoying the film back in the late 80’s, but had forgotten specifics as to why. It was great to be reminded that even for the odd and eccentric there is someone out there who is a match for them.
There is one specific line of dialogue from “The Accidental Tourist” that rings true for me and continues to kick around in my head.
“I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s not just how much you love someone. Maybe what matters is who you are when you’re with them.”
Looking over my shoulder at my life I can see clearly that statement rings true for me. The realization is sobering to accept I was often more of what I thought others wanted me to be rather than who I really was. That old and tired inward “self talk” of thoughts like “if you really get to know me, you won’t like me” kept me from allowing myself to become emotionally intimate in any love relationship.
What I frequently presented in the past was a facsimile of myself that had been adapted in ways I thought the person in my love life wanted me to be. This always worked for a while, but became frustrating in the long run. Over time the façade became more difficult to pull off. As more of the real me was allowed to show, it bewildered the person I was involved with. I seemed like a stranger to them.
The lines that bring the movie to a crescendo for me are: “You don’t need me anymore. We both know that. But I need her.” It is at the point in the movie a very man who has completely lost his way in life finds clarity and purpose again. Through starting to fall in love again and coming to grips with how he feels, he rediscovers himself. There is one more Anne Tyler quote that sums things up: “I’ve never quite believed that one chance is all I get”
I stayed up later that usual to finish the movie the night it was on, but I am glad it did. It was a good reminder that no matter what one’s history or age, love is always possible. Even for the quirkiest, there is another who can love just such a person as they are. There is always “that one more chance”.
This morning I am grateful for the message that remains with me from seeing “The Accidental Tourist”. It was just the right thing at the right time.
Dream what you want to dream; go where you want to go; be what you want to be, because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do. Anonymous