World Traveler
review by Carrie Gorringe, 21 September 2001

26th Toronto International Film Festival

The theme of Bart Freundlich's latest film, World Traveller, can be summed up in one phrase: mid-life crisis. Traveller's hero, however, has decided to take his much earlier than expected, and it unfolds in the most conventional way. Cal (Billy Crudup) is a successful New York architect in his mid-thirties, caught up in what might be described as the "Better Deal" Syndrome; he's convinced that there has to be one if he can just jettison those nagging professional and personal commitments. So Cal packs a bag and drives off in search of whatever it is he's been lacking, leaving his wife and three-year-old son to fend for themselves. While making his way across the country, supporting himself through odd construction jobs, he encounters one of those archetypical mysterious women (Julianne Moore), one who is at once vibrant and a bitter alcoholic, who inadvertently makes him realize the meaning of life and the quality of life in one single, dreadful instant. Although the film is ostensibly about Cal, and Billy Crudup provides the character with just enough humanity to keep him from becoming a yuppie cad , Moore's character is the fulcrum of the piece; without her, the film would be yet another mundane take on the man's fear-of acceptance archetype, and Freundlich is smart enough to know that. Moore is one of those rare actresses who can encapsulate an entire lifetime of misery in the most deceptively simple, or even simplistic, gesture, as in her powerful performance as the trophy wife in Todd Haynes's Safe (especially during a scene in which the wife's explosion over the delivery of a sofa that is the wrong color is more than a mere expression of repressed anger. Moore turns it into a cruel statement about a woman who is prized for her extrinsic value, as opposed to her intrinsic values; this mere delivery error represented nothing less than yet another act of cosmic betrayal, and becomes a pathetic, but apt, harbinger of her increasing imprisonment on all levels). Because of her, the film's tone receives a well-needed reinforcement at around the time that the film settles into a (reasonably) predictable, though easy-flowing, narrative. Structurally, World Traveler hits the basic benchmark for quality common to all life-crisis film; thanks to Ms. Moore, it becomes something else: a piquant statement on the nature of human neediness and its relationship to human responsibilities.

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Written and
Directed by:

Bart Freundlich

Julianne Moore
Billy Crudup
Karen Allen
Liane Balaban
James LeGros

NR - Not Rated.
This film has not 
yet been rated.




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