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The Open Road (A Movie Review)


Starring Jeff Bridges, Justin Timberlake, Kate Mara, Mary Steenburgen, Harry Dean Stanton, Ted Danson, Lyle Lovett and Louis Herthum.

Screenplay by Michael Meredith.

Directed by Michael Meredith.

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The Open Road is not the most original film ever; however as formulaic films go, it’s not half bad.

The film mashes up a few different well-trod storylines – the dying mom, the road trip, the estranged son and father coming to terms, the broken up couple considering getting back together, the son dealing with the stardom of his dad – and comes up with a reasonably entertaining little film.

Justin Timberlake plays Carlton Garrett – a middling minor league baseball player whose father Kyle (Jeff Bridges) was a superstar. Kyle has long been out of Carlton’s life – they haven’t even talked in five years. However, when his mother (Mary Steenburgen) has to go to the hospital because of a potentially fatal heart defect, she asks her son to get her ex-husband to come to see her.

Carlton talks his ex-girlfriend (Kate Mara) – who he hasn’t quite gotten over, though he broke it off in a fit of commitment-phobia – into accompanying him when Carlton tracks down Kyle at an autograph signing show in Ohio.

Dad agrees to go home, but due to a possibly lost wallet, he can’t take a plane, making the three share a rental car cross country from Ohio to Houston.

This leads to a few days of travel, arguments, bonding, opening up, disappointing and trying to accept.

The Open Road is the second film written and directed by Michael Meredith. His first film was a fantastically moody 2002 ensemble drama called Three Days of Rain (although it did not get released until 2007). The Open Road is in no way as adventurous as Three Days – which was based on the short fiction of Anton Chekhov – however, both films show great promise for a long-term career.

The one way that Meredith has definitely improved is in dealing with actors. Three Days was very well acted, mostly, however there were a few performances that went right off the rails. The acting here is uniformly very strong.

As usual, Bridges is absolutely terrific here – capturing the dichotomy of a man who has become a pro at charming near strangers but has trouble dealing one on one with those he is closest with.

Timberlake also shows a lot more range than his pop star background would lead you to expect, though his role is much less flashy and more reserved.

It would seem that Meredith knows of what he is speaking here – his own father is former football great turned Monday Night Football announcer “Dandy” Don Meredith. (Don also did a terrific supporting turn as a lonely cabbie in Three Days of Rain.) The fact that Michael has lived this kind of relationship sort of makes you wonder how much of The Open Road is autobiographical.

The movie slightly runs out of steam when the men come to the end of their road trip – however for most of its length The Open Road is an intriguing look at very different but intricately linked people trying to find a common bond despite years of disappointing each other.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: November 16, 2009.

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