×

The Open Road

Pic gets respectable mileage from a familiar story.

With:
With: Jeff Bridges, Justin Timberlake, Kate Mara, Harry Dean Stanton, Lyle Lovett, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson.

Entirely predictable but surprisingly involving, “The Open Road” gets respectable mileage from a familiar story about the gradual, grudging reconciliation between an errant father, a former Major League superstar, and his son, a discontented minor-league hopeful, during a cross-country road trip. Boasting strong performances by Jeff Bridges and Justin Timberlake as the estranged duo, writer-director Michael Meredith’s indie dramedy hardly qualifies as a home run, but largely satisfies as, at the very least, a stand-up double. After limited theatrical play, the pic may score in ancillary.

Jeff Bridges proves to be a most valuable player here as Kyle Garrett, a retired MLB luminary who’s never been any great shakes as a family man. Whether he’s signing autographs or spinning yarns while having a drink or two (or six or seven) in small-town bar, Kyle has the practiced affability of someone most at ease in the company of admiring strangers. His sangfroid diminishes slightly, but noticeably, when he’s paid a visit by someone who knows him all too well: Carlton (Justin Timberlake), the son he hasn’t heard from in nearly five years.

On temporary leave from the minor-league Corpus Christie Hooks, Carlton shows up unannounced at an Ohio convention with unwelcome news: Katherine (Mary Steenburgen), Carlton’s mom, is seriously ailing back in Houston, but won’t agree to a risky heart operation unless Kyle, her long-absent husband, is close by.

Kyle agrees to fly back to Houston with Carlton. But, true to his nature as a chronically unreliable ne’er-do-well, the prodigal dad conveniently loses his wallet just before their flight, and airport security can’t allow him to board the plane.

All of which, of course, serves as setup for a road trip, as Kyle and Carlton — accompanied by Lucy (Kate Mara), Carlton’s on-and-off girlfriend — take a long-distance drive in a rented SUV, on a journey that allows plenty of time for detours into unresolved issues and uncomfortable confrontations.

Dramatically and emotionally, “The Open Road” covers very little fresh ground. But auds willing to trek through this well-trod territory will enjoy the company of engaging traveling companions. Timberlake appealingly conveys the right measures of open-faced sincerity, long-simmering resentment and tongue-tied yearning, while Mara fleshes out her stock girlfriend role with subtle shadings of character.

Bridges dominates the pic, but does so by effectively underplaying a role that easily could have tempted another actor to attention-grabbing excess. His shrewd restraint is reflected in Meredith’s overall approach to storytelling: The comic elements are never too broad, and the drama, while compelling, is soft-pedaled.

Better still, Meredith never attempts the cheap trick of resolving conflicts with melodramatic revelations. The closest he comes to explaining Kyle’s selfishness is a wrenching scene in which he admits that, while he may have loved his family, he loved himself more. It’s not difficult to discern the influence of executive producer Wim Wenders, whose own “Don’t Come Knocking” dealt with (among other things) a similarly edgy father-and-son reunion. (Anyone who knows that Meredith’s own father is football great Don Meredith may wonder just how autobiographical “The Open Road” really is.)

Meredith backs his three leads with a strong lineup of supporting players. The newly ubiquitous Steenburgen makes the most of her limited screen time, and there are sharp cameos by Harry Dean Stanton, Lyle Lovett and Ted Danson.

Reportedly filmed in several states over 26 days, “The Open Road” boasts first-rate production values that suggest a small budget was spent wisely. Highlights include a stop at Memphis’ famous Peabody Hotel just in time for the daily march of ducks through the storied lobby.

The Open Road

Production: An Anchor Bay release of an Odd Lot Entertainment presentation in association with Heavy Lifting of a Perfect Weekend/Aquafoxx Prods./Maximon Pictures production. Produced by Justin Moore-Lewy, Charlie Mason, Michael Meredith, Jordan Foley, Laurie Foxx, David Schiff. Executive producers, Gigi Pritzker, Deborah Del Petrie, Kevin Foxx, Jonathan Gray, Heidi Levitt, Roy Scott MacFarland, Jason Hewitt, Wim Wenders. Co-producer, Brigitte Mueller. Directed, written by Michael Meredith.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Yaron Orbach; editors, Suzy Elmiger, Jacob Craycroft; music, Charlie Sexton; music supervisors, Michael Lloyd, Dan Hubbert; production designer, Paki Smith; costume designer, Molly Elizabeth Grundman; sound (Dolby Digital), Dan Izen; assistant director, Aaron Barsky; casting, Heidi Levitt. Reviewed at Angelika Film Center, Houston, Aug. 28, 2009. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Jeff Bridges, Justin Timberlake, Kate Mara, Harry Dean Stanton, Lyle Lovett, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson.

More Film

  • Stuber

    ‘Stuber’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in spending with “Stuber.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.91 million through Sunday for 1,325 national ad airings on 42 networks. [...]

  • BTS - J-Hope, V, Jungkook, Jimin,

    BTS' 'Bring the Soul: The Movie' Gets Global Theatrical Release

    BTS will be back on the big screen this summer. The Korean pop group announced today that their latest feature film, “Bring the Soul: The Movie,” will have a global release on August 7. It arrives just six and a half months after the septet’s last film release, “Love Yourself in Seoul.” “Bring the Soul” [...]

  • Box Office: 'Yesterday' Movie Takes on

    Box Office: 'Annabelle Comes Home' and 'Yesterday' Take on 'Toy Story 4'

    The weekend box office has gone to the dolls. “Annabelle Comes Home,” a supernatural horror film about a possessed toy, is facing off against another band of plastic figurines: “Toy Story 4.” Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” is expected to dominate box office charts again over newcomers “Annabelle Comes Home” and “Yesterday,” a fantasy musical set [...]

  • 'The Current War' Trailer: Benedict Cumberbatch,

    Benedict Cumberbatch and Nicholas Hoult Feud in 'The Current War' Trailer (Watch)

    101 Studios has released an official new trailer for the Martin Scorcese-produced thriller, “The Current War,”  offering a glimpse into the dramatic 19th century battle over electricity that became known as the “war of the currents.” The film, which is a dramatization of real-life events, will follow the tumultuous journey of Thomas Edison, played by [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Oscars: 31 Upcoming Films That Could Enter the Awards Race

    The year reaches the halfway mark on June 30, and traditionally films from the first six months have an uphill battle in the Oscar race. However, this year’s January-June crop might get a boost from the accelerated schedule: Nominations voting is a tight Jan. 2-Jan. 7, 2020. So if voters start their homework now, early [...]

  • Yesterday Movie Danny Boyle

    Danny Boyle on 'Yesterday,' Leaving 'Bond 25' and Why the Beatles Still Rock

    Danny Boyle would like to reintroduce you to the Beatles. The iconic foursome certainly needs no introduction, but in his movie “Yesterday,” which debuts June 28, the director envisions a word where nobody has heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo. That is, nobody besides Jack Malik. When the struggling songwriter, portrayed by newcomer Himesh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content