×
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

  • Netflix Buys Taiwan Black Comedy 'Dear

    Netflix Buys Taiwan Black Comedy 'Dear Ex'

    Netflix has added to its roster of Mandarin-language content with the acquisition of rights to Taiwanese dark comedy “Dear Ex.” The award-winning film will play out from Feb. 1. The story involves a recently bereaved widow and a gay man fighting over a dead man’s inheritance, with the woman’s teenage son caught in the middle. [...]

  • Audrey Wells

    Film News Roundup: Audrey Wells Scholarships Launched by UCLA, China's Pearl Studio

    In today’s film news roundup, Pearl Studio and UCLA start a “Say Yes!” scholarship in memory of Audrey Well; Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale are honored; and the “General Magic” documentary gets bought. SCHOLARSHIPS UNVEILED More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & Piano' TV Review: 'Russian Doll' [...]

  • Honey Boy Knock Down the House

    Sundance Hot Titles List: 13 Buzzy Films That Have Buyers Talking

    There’s a good reason that much of Hollywood braves the thin mountain air each year to make the trek to the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s not to check out the nearby ski slopes. The annual launch of the indie film gathering brings with it the possibility of discovering the next big thing in moviemaking. [...]

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    Will Oscar Nominations Give This Year's Contenders a Box Office Boost?

    With nominees like “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star Is Born,” the 2018 class of movies proved the Oscars don’t need a popular films category to recognize movies that also made bank in theaters. But now that the academy has selected this year’s crop of awards hopefuls, is there any green left to squeeze [...]

  • A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's

    Sundance: A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's Romance-Drama 'The Souvenir'

    A24 has bought the North American rights to Tilda Swinton’s romance-drama “The Souvenir – Part 2,” closing the deal on the eve of the Sundance Film Festival. “The Souvenir” is set to make its world premiere at Sundance on Jan. 27, followed by playing in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival in February. [...]

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    Chiwetel Ejiofor Adds Authenticity to Directorial Debut by Shooting in Malawi

    When actor Chiwetel Ejiofor optioned the rights for the 2009 best-seller “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” penning the screenplay for a feature directorial debut that world-premieres in Sundance and then appears in the Berlin Film Festival before being released globally by Netflix this spring, colleagues floated the idea of shooting the Malawi-set film in tried-and-tested [...]

  • ally billboard a star is born

    Oscar Campaign Spending Reaches New Heights in Competitive Season

    The escalating cost of awards campaigning may reach an all-time high this season as heavyweights such as “Roma” and “A Star Is Born” battle for Oscar gold. The quest for an Academy Award has always been expensive, but Netflix’s hunger to nab its first best picture win, coupled with the presence of legitimate studio contenders [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content