Written and directed by Bart Freundlich, this project deserves commendation for its psychological cogency and compassion, but it loses significant points for its lazy story and complacent delivery. Basically, we have a mannish boy named Cal (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous) who's a modestly successful New York architect but decides to beat the retreat in search of meaning. Apart from perks like some very pretty coast-to-coast scenery and a near-constant assault of Willie Nelson balladry with assists from Tom Waits and America, World Traveler sustains itself through its fragmented episodes, which feel pretty much like intriguing outtakes from Sam Shepard's early plays. In what amount to expanded cameos, the supporting players breathe a lot of life into these segments, especially Cleavant Derricks as an adoring, alcoholic carpenter, Karen Allen as a perky waitress and Liane Balaban as a chipper young hitchhiker. The film's biggest bit player is Julianne Moore, who portrays Cal's unique white-trash conquest, affording the film its toughest punch. The story is easy to relate to, but with its obvious conclusion it's a road movie in which the road itself is optional at best.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.