×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • Fox Searchlight logo

    Film News Roundup: Fox Searchlight Launches Searchlight Shorts

    In today’s film news roundup, Fox Searchlight starts a shorts channel, Uma Thurman signs with ICM and Miramax signs animation exec Michael Lachance. SEARCHLIGHT SHORTS More Reviews Off Broadway Review: John Guare's 'Nantucket Sleigh Ride' Concert Review: Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets Dishes Up Seminal Pink Floyd Delights Fox Searchlight Pictures’ chairmen Nancy Utley and [...]

  • ImMature - cr: MX Player

    Indian Streamers Ramp up Original Productions

    Ever since global streaming giants Amazon Prime Video and Netflix entered the Indian OTT space in 2016, the conversation around original series has mostly revolved around them, thanks in part to market leader 21st Century Fox’s Hotstar’s circumspect attitude at the time about producing content. Netflix had great success with “Sacred Games,” while Amazon rode [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Hollywood Agents, Writers Guild Make Little Progress in Talks

    Leaders of Hollywood agencies and the Writers Guild of America made little progress in Tuesday meeting to negotiate proposed rule revisions to how agents represent writers. The WGA said after the meeting — the fifth since Feb. 5 — that talks would resume later this week but did not give a specific day. More Reviews [...]

  • Village Rockstars

    Female Filmmakers Are a Growing Voice in India

    The Indian film industry has historically been a male-dominated one, but the winds of change are blowing across the country, albeit slowly. Better-served than the rest of the country is the Mumbai-based Hindi-language industry, where there are several active female filmmakers including Zoya Akhtar (“Gully Boy”), Reema Kagti (“Gold”), Leena Yadav (“Rajma Chawal”), Gauri Shinde [...]

  • Florence Pugh

    Scarlett Johansson's 'Black Widow' Movie Adds Florence Pugh

    “Black Widow’s” web may soon be growing. Sources tell Variety that Florence Pugh is in talks to join Scarlett Johansson’s standalone superhero film. More Reviews Off Broadway Review: John Guare's 'Nantucket Sleigh Ride' Concert Review: Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets Dishes Up Seminal Pink Floyd Delights Pugh has been on the hot list for this [...]

  • Mira Lesmana Sets up Indonesia Remake

    Mira Lesmana Sets Up Indonesian Remake of CJ's 'Sunny'

    Indonesia’s Miles Film and Korea’s CJ Entertainment are to co-produce an Indonesian remake of Korean hit “Sunny.” The film is a female-driven dramedy about a group of adult friends who reunite 20 years after high school. Directed by Kang Hyoung-chul, “Sunny” was one of the highest-grossing movies in Korea when it was released in 2011. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content