World Traveler (review)

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World Traveler doesn’t get off to a promising start, not to the moviegoer tired of tales of self-involved yuppie men working through their unearned midlife crises by running away from their comfortable lives. I really thought I’d had enough of movie-men, whiny in that annoyingly undemonstrative way, running off from dream jobs and beautiful wives and happy kids because they never made the football team in high school and this has haunted them for the last 20 years. But writer/director Bart Freundlich and his leading man, Billy Crudup, make it work by daring to cast Crudup’s Cal in the harshest, most unsympathetic light possible. Cal is not the screwed-up but basically charming antihero these stories usually present us with — he is a selfish bastard, and we are invited to see his abandonment of his wife and child on a cross-country trek from New York as a symptom of his self-hatred, and not as some kind of noble quest for freedom. God bless Crudup (Almost Famous) and his aversion to taking the easy Hollywood road and cashing in on his movie-star gorgeousness — trust him here, and he’ll take you through Cal’s self-loathing and make you believe it when he comes out on the other side. This may be the first time I’ve actually understood why a man onscreen had no choice but to be a real jerk.

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