By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Introverts need love too.
Macon Leary (William Hurt) is an introvert who writes travel books for a living despite the fact that he dislikes traveling. His marriage to Sarah (Kathleen Turner) ends after the untimely death of their son. His wife used to babysit his dog Edward while he was away, but now he decides to drop him off at the local animal shelter that is run by Muriel Pritchet (Geena Davis). She is colorful and talkative and his complete opposite and eventually a romance begins to blossom.
The film, based on the novel by Anne Tyler, takes its time in telling its story. In some ways the leisurely pace is refreshing. Trying to get an introvert to be more extraverted is never easy and the way Macon is initially reticent towards Muriel’s advances was realistic. Yet it does drag at certain parts and seems to go on too long. The second hour, in which Sarah comes back in the picture and Macon is forced to choose between the two, is much more interesting and compelling. The side-story where Macon’s publisher Julian (Bill Pullman) romances Macon’s sister Rose (Amy Wright) was unnecessary and does nothing but make a slow movie even longer. I also didn’t find the eccentricities of Macon’s family to be all that amusing as they were exaggerated and portrayed introverts as being freaks instead of people who simply function better independently instead of within groups.
The Muriel character is a bit over-blown as well. She comes on too aggressively towards Macon before she even knows him. There is nothing shown for why she found this man immediately attractive especially when he constantly responds to her in a cold and distant way. Later on we learn that she is poor and possibly found Macon to be well-off financially and a good stable father for her son, but even so her behavior seems a bit too forward and bordering on being shameless. Her outfits are over-the-top. I realize they are supposed to accentuate her kooky personality, but they come off as gaudy and garish and like they are being worn by someone who has no sense of style or taste. The part where she quietly hugs Macon when he explains to her about the death of his son is moving and the first moment when I began to like the character. However, director Lawrence Kasdan ruins it by then having her strip of his clothes and climb into bed with him, which took things too far. In film sometimes the strongest statements can be made with the simplest of images and it seemed like here they had it and then lost it.
Turner is okay as the ex-wife, but I initially felt the character was unnecessary. I didn’t like it at the beginning when they are breaking-up and she goes into great detail about his character faults sounding almost like she was analyzing him for a psychological assessment. It seemed to me like she was being used to help ‘explain’ his character to the viewer when in a good film the viewer should be able to come to these deductions themselves without the help of an on-screen ‘tutorial’. Later on as she fights to get Macon back the character becomes stronger and better fleshed-out. I even ended up feeling sorry for her as her own insecurities and jealousies do her in.
Hurt is solid in the lead playing an atypical role. I wanted more of an explanation about the death of their son. It takes quite a while before it gets explained and then we are told that it was during some botched robbery at a burger joint, but it was still unclear to me why he was there and not the parents, or how it all played out. Having a flashback with a news report involving the incident would have helped. The film has many other flashbacks, some of them quite good, so another in this area would have been nice.
The music score is pleasing, but too reminiscent of ones used in other films from that era. It also has a bit too much of a whimsical quality that is not fitting for a drama such as this. The Muriel’s eight year old son is cute, but a bit too cute. I found the scenes where Macon bonds with the kid to be touching, but when films seemed compelled to only show children spewing out cutesy, innocuous comments I find it a bit annoying.
Overall this is a quality production made probably more for the female viewer looking for an intelligent, sensitive romance.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: December 23, 1988
Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute
Studio: Warner Brothers
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix Streaming