A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a serious film that deals with adult themes of loss, sex, and depression. As such, it's not recommended for all but the most mature preteens and teens. Kids may have a hard time relating to the adult problems and may be disturbed by the weakness of adults portrayed here. They may also be unsympathetic to the carefully drawn characters that resonate with adults. But for families dealing with divorce and other turmoil, the film might be a good way to open the subject of coping with loss and changing family structures.
What's the story?
In THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, Macon (William Hurt) writes travel guides for globetrotters who want adventure-free trips. A year after his young son's death, Macon is further damaged when his wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner) announces she's leaving him. Depressed and alone, Macon's only remaining companions are his bizarre siblings and his dog. The dog's strange behavior leads Macon to Muriel (Geena Davis), a wacky dog trainer who lives alone with her young son. Macon finds Muriel forward and rejects her romantic overtures, but Muriel persists and Macon eventually moves in with her. When his wife Sarah calls, Macon attempts to return to his old life, but realizes that Muriel's extraordinary openness -- her "oddness" as he calls it -- brings him out of his shell and makes him a better person.
Is it any good?
This emotionally harrowing story will be tough going for most children. The depiction of a man who has shut down emotionally -- who no longer experiences life on any level -- is quite foreign to most children. They might be confused by seeing such weakness in an adult, as many kids believe that grownups are always strong and in control. And kids might not be ready to appreciate some of the movie's subtle strengths, like the wonderful eccentricities of Macon's family.
Still, there is good deal to admire in this Oscar-nominated picture. The poignant screenplay was adapted from Anne Tyler's best-selling novel, and the cinematography evokes a sense of timelessness. The acting is strong throughout, especially Geena Davis in her Oscar-winning turn as an eccentric animal behaviorist. Hurt is perfectly cast as the guy who writes travel guides for business travelers who don't really want to go anywhere. But there's complexity and a wry wit beneath his chilly exterior. Audiences will smile when he says "I really don't care for movies. They make everything seem so . . . close up."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mature themes discussed in this film, including overcoming loss and the fallibility of parents and other adults. What loss has each family member experienced, and how have they dealt with it? How can families use loss to bring them closer together?
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