Sunday, 23 December 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1988: William Hurt in The Accidental Tourist

William Hurt did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Macon Leary in The Accidental Tourist.

The Accidental Tourist is an enjoyable film about a writer of travel guides who deals with personal troubles after the sudden death of his son.

William Hurt had received three Oscar nominations in a row. He found himself nominated from 85 to 87, but he was not nominated this year despite the fact that his film was nominated for best picture. It seems the academy, as well as most everyone else just decided this was the drop off point for William Hurt as a leading man for whatever reason. After this none of his leading performances made a stamp in the awards season and he did not find himself Oscar nominated again until he was well embedded as a character actor instead. His snub here really did seem to mean more than just not being nominated for an Oscar honestly.

It is a real shame though that William Hurt was forgotten for his leading man work here as I have to say I really like Hurt as a leading man. Hurt is just has a certain screen presence that creates a great deal of likability which is most certainly true of this performance. He is very unassuming as the travel guide writer Macon Leary, and this really works very well for the part. Hurt is careful in his portrayal in he emotes just enough in his part, in that he is someone we can easily follow through his personal story as he pulls us into his character's troubles rather than pushing away with them as one easily could do.

The pressing element on Macon is the death of his son which Hurt portrays marvelously because it is something that he realizes in the subtleties of his performance. There is a depression in his performance, but Hurt is terrific becuase he shows the depression without this being left as a depressed performance. He is very moving in his rather short moments that are very underplayed by him.  These scenes are effective because he brings to life the sadness in Macon from the death of his son as something that has settled within to a certain point that it leaves him not a man of constant overwhelming grief, but instead an internalized grief that leaves him in his haunted state. 

One could argue this film is in a part a romantic comedy involving Macon's relationship with his recently divorced wife Sara (Kathleen Turner), and his relationship with a stalker like dog trainer Muriel (Geena Davis). Hurt though does not at all seem like the romantic leading man with his performance here. In his scenes with both Davis and Turner Hurt does not at all portray the romantic angle in really any scene with them. This actually works in favor to his character and the film as he portrays both relationships in a most unorthodox fashion. In both situations though Hurt portrays Macon as a haunted man attempting reaching to find some happiness, but is really unable to break the certain malaise that he cannot escape from.

In his relationship with Turner's Sara, Hurt is effective in portraying the distance that was caused by the death of their son as well as by her own decision to separate at the beginning of the film. When she tries to reconnect with Macon Hurt is quite good because he shows the appropriate familiarity with her that explains why he returns to her, but he is strong in his ability to create that distance that never does leave him when he is with her. The other relationship with Muriel the dog trainer is very different but Hurt handles it equally well. In the beginning Hurt is quietly amusing with how taken aback Macon is by her persistence. Even when he lives with her Hurt is consistent portraying Macon as looking for something but still not really finding it.

Hurt knows how to portray Macon's very slow change as in his scenes as he slowly opens up, Hurt portrays perhaps a happiness but not one that can ever overcome his sadness as well as in equal measure a certain confusion over what he really wants. The confusion and the sadness do not really subside in one moment but Hurt instead more powerfully shows it to be something that slowly wears away. His final moment of the film, in fact the very final shot, is just perfectly played by Hurt as he shows finally the persistence of Muriel allows him to break out of his sadness with a simple but powerful smile. This is a very strong performance by William Hurt that is a moving depiction of his character's plight, as well as more simply as a charming leading man.


RatedRStar said...

Didnt William Hurt split up with Marlee Matlin during this time too, that must have been a real punch in the gut for him as well as his leading career pretty much vanished after this.

I feel kinda sorry for him, he like James Mason, Claude Rains and Montgomery Clift deserved more than what they got, most people have forgotten about these four people.

William Hurt (Leading career ended after this film after he abused Marlee, no one is perfect, I also retract my comments about Joaquin Phoenixs personal life)

James Mason (Here in England where he is from should be very well known, he isnt well known here, at all, the most notable thing people mention about him is that he was in the same film as Judy Garland.

Claude Rains (Career pretty much died after Notorious because of his divorces with numerous wifes and his alcoholism, again he is not well known at all, most famous only for The Invisible Man.

Montgomery Clift (Career died after his accident, most notable thing nowadays that people say is that he was gay and he was Brandos rival)

I also felt really sorry for Joaquin Phoenix when he was getting bullied on that interview show he went on, Letterman I think?.

RatedRStar said...

Sorry for the long rant everyone I just had to say what I felt.

Lezlie said...

Yes, unfortunately, for every talented and famous actor, there are at least two who are equally brilliant but just can't make it big, or at least as big as they would deserve. For example, Steve Buscemi should be an A-lister leading man, instead, he only has the "that guy" status (and a nice role in Boardwalk Empire:P). The list could go on forever. By the way, merry Christmas everyone :)

dinasztie said...

He was outstanding in this movie, better than any of the nominees I've seen.

Happy Holidays once again! :)

mrripley said...

He just seemed to fall off the face of the earth in 89 and he was sexier and more charasmatic then harrison ford,my first gay crush.

RatedRStar said...

I had a gay crush on Hurt 2 lol =D I love this film, and Merry Christmas everyone.

RatedRStar said...

and I thought I was the only Lgbt guy on the blog lol.

Michael Patison said...

I liked him here, but I only saw him as a 4 star.aybe if I rewatch it just for his performance I'd think differently because maybe it's just that I'd give the movie 3.5 or 4 stars, really good, but not great and not really deserving of its Best Picture nomination though it did keep Hurt's streak of those alive.

Michael Patison said...

I just read your first post, RatedRStar, and I pretty much agree. Especially Clift. He's been overshadowed by Brando, but really more by Dean for reasons I don't understand, considering I think Clift was more talented.

As for Claude Rains, I agree it's a shame though I'd say he's most well known for Casablanca

James Mason should also be more well known.

Michael Patison said...

Also, Lezlie, couldn't agree more. Especially in the modern day of non-studio-centric filmmaking. Back when studios drove everything, talents that might have been forgotten were at least given the opportunity a few times. For instance, I feel like somebody like Ronald Colman would have been overlooked if not for the studio-driven system.

RatedRStar said...

@Michael Patison: I just saw The Master again and ill be honest I liked Phoenix a little more the second time this viewing, im about to watch Flight now, im having doubts of seeing it, Washington is an actor who I am always cautious on.

Also on Rains he is well known for Casablanca, but I think its the character of Renault rather than Rains himself. I like Clift more than Brando also (he was more of sweet guy rather than Brando who was like a brutal monster type lol.)

Michael Patison said...

I thought Phoenix was ok but really just 3 stars or 3.5 maybe. He shows his issues well in his eyes but his facial expressions especially his mouth just detract for me. The lackluster writing also hurts his performance. He neve really gets a chance to make any marked changes. The film is overrated and is by far PTA's worst. Anderson's always so good at making movies that give you a hard topic to grapple with after it's over but here he never gives you anything to think about. It's a 2 star film for me.

Anonymous said...

What did you think about Davis ? She was more Lead than Supporting !

Louis Morgan said...

I liked her performance, but I never saw her as lead. She has a fairly good amount of screen time but the film was always firmly in Hurt's perspective.