In which direction do we look for self-definition? Inward? Behind us? Or is the answer out on the road? It might be for "World Traveler's" Cal (Billy Crudup), a New Yorker who abandons his happy home -- wife and child included -- for no readily apparent reason, then gets in his car and starts to drive while slowly spinning out of control.
Given childlike approachability and all-American pretty-boy features by Crudup ("Jesus' Son," "Almost Famous"), Cal comes off as an amateur drunk, swimming in Scotch out of some innate necessity to numb his situation while charming his way into beds all along the road to nowhere. Among the lives he touches on his modern odyssey is that of Dulcie (Julianne Moore), a white-trash career misfit who embodies Cal's hopes, fears and future all at once, bringing out the best in him as well as the worst. Moore's exquisitely executed portrait continues her record of imbuing unlikely characters with deceptive depth. Also watch James LeGros ("Drugstore Cowboy") masterfully mesh super-unhipness with a demented undertow in his portrayal of Jack, a blast from Cal's high-school past.
Directed by Bart Freundlich ("The Myth of Fingerprints"), "World Traveler" forces us to decide for ourselves if there is a reasonable basis for Cal's disturbing existence, or if he is just another asshole killing drinks and spilling sperm across America. The film does nothing new in terms of style or technique, but it breaks through a few brick walls to understanding the human condition, perfectly illustrating why you sometimes have to dive face-first into chaos before you can figure out how to get to "better."