In art, sometimes the empty spaces reveal more than the painted or created content. What this movie reveals is the unconsciousness and the contradictory/competing, unresolved impulses/consciousness of the film's director/writer. It unintentionally shows the LACK of awareness that a truly evolved, deeply aware character should have and be tormented about in order to deserve audience empathy or sympathy OR the lack of which is used to serve as a cautionary tale to the audience. But this film fails on either level in that regard.
The fact that Cal, the main character (very much an ANTagonist, not a protagonist in the true sense of the word), has no empathy for anyone, especially those most deserving of it (which does NOT include him) and that he has such overblown, entitled, self-pitying, whiney sympathy only for himself, combined with the hallmark lack of remorse and no sense of guilt or awareness of his impact on others -- all converge in this film to make him the epitome of the self-involved, developmentally arrested, narcissistic sociopath -- somehow this is now the gold standard for males on film and in the world at this point and time.
One of his counterpoints (James LeGros) states with a laser-true flash: "I bet you haven't done one good thing in life -- and I bet you won't". It captures the absolute essence of the Cal character. Something the other characters he bulldozes over in the film seem to realize fairly quickly despite the director having stacked the deck to manipulate sympathy for Cal. That is a testament to the supporting cast's talent and skills.
Cal's eventual 'return' has nothing to do with character development, transformation or evolution of consciousness. It has only to do with the ultimate capitulation that until something better comes along, he may as well be back in his comfy cozy status quo of entitled enablement where the living is easy and no one will demand that he grow up--something of which he is willfully incapable and uninterested in doing.
The film could have been pointed and intentional about showing the traps and tragedies -- the devastating effects of this kind of lack of conscience/ consciousness, but it excuses and glorifies it instead -- in fact, it wallows in self-pity right along with the arrogant, selfish, emotionally stunted main character.
(and it sure sent chills up my spine when thinking of the recent revelations about convicted murderer Scott Peterson).
If you want to see Crudup at his most nuanced and full of an exciting potential that has never been truly realized in my opinion, see the underrated 'Inventing the Abbotts' ....