Tuesday 26 April 2011


Justin Timberlake and Jeff Bridges hit the road in this family drama. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

When his mother Katherine (Mary Steenburgen) is taken into hospital with a life threatening illness, baseball player and wannabe writer Carlton Garrett (international singing sensation Justin Timberlake) must go in search of his estranged father, legendary player Kyle 'Lone Star' Garrett (Jeff Bridges). Finding him at a baseball expo in Ohio, Carlton must persuade his father to visit Katherine before its too late, learning many secrets about each other on the long journey back.

It's getting to the point now where I'm starting to feel bad for mentioning Justin Timberlake's music career, as in his recent role of Sean Parker in The Social Network he proved himself to be a solid dramatic actor. The Open Road actually predates The Social Network but has been sat gathering dust on a shelf for nearly two years before unceremoniously arriving here on DVD. As to why it didn't receive a theatrical release? Well, probably because it's only 'okay'.

Bridges seems to enjoy taking on these stubborn old bastard roles nowadays, and coupled with a bit of heartfelt family drama, it's clear what attracted him to the role of baseball legend Kyle Garrett. Garrett is a charming man who loves nothing more than holding court and having a crowd hang off his every word, and Bridges clearly has a lot of fun doing it. As his somewhat disapproving son, Timberlake has to carry most of the film's dramatic impetus, and proves himself to have a lot of charm and screen presence. If only he had some stronger material to play with.

As for the women in their life, they're quite underwritten roles, with the mother Katherine confined to a hospital bed and Carlton's ex-girlfriend Lucy (the very capable Kate Mara) very much just along for the ride. To that end, The Open Road is a study of fractured masculinity, and JT and JB have a good sparring energy, the rowdy, banter filled scenes between them being the film's highlight.

Very much sticking to the road movie credo of 'it's not the journey you take but the lessons you learn along the way', The Open Road is a perfectly pleasant father/son drama where the stakes aren't set particularly high. Bridges may be running on auto pilot, but Timberlake shows himself to be capable of weightier roles. Not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but perhaps a more apt title may have been Middle Of The Road.


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