A film like The Open Road isn’t one that you watch for the beginning or conclusion. The beginning is there to set up some reason for the characters to hit the road, while the ending is something that you are going to be able to figure out after about 15 minutes have passed. You’re watching a film like this one for two reasons: The characters, and the situations in the middle of the film that the characters get into.
There are three main characters in The Open Road. The first is Justin Timberlake playing minor-league baseball player Carlton Garrett. His father is played by Jeff Bridges, and acts as the antagonist of the film. He’s not a villain, but he antagonizes everyone else. The final major character of the film is Carlton’s ex-girlfriend Lucy, played by Kate Mara.
The beginning of the film sets up the plot. Carlton’s mother (Mary Steenburgen) is in hospital with some illness, and requires surgery. She is refusing to sign the necessary forms that will allow the doctor’s to perform the surgery. She tells Carlton to find his father — a man he hasn’t seen in years — and bring him to her; she’ll sign the forms when this happens. Carlton and Lucy take off to find Kyle Garrett, a retired professional baseball player.
They find him fast enough, many states away, but after losing his wallet, they trio have to drive back to Carlton’s ailing mother. Kyle doesn’t want to go, for numerous reasons, while Carlton and Lucy are determined to get him there. And if you think you know exactly how the story ends just from reading the review so far, you are probably correct. But that doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is the interactions the characters have with one another, and also the events that occur in-between these interactions. If both are interesting, the movie will be more or less just as entertaining, because you won’t be thinking about the plot. You’ll be living in the moment, and if you enjoy that, any predictability will fail to matter. Unfortunately, the latter part of this isn’t really present in The Open Road.
I did enjoy the interactions between the characters though. Each character has numerous problems with the others, and these problems each get explored in-depth. However, the events that occur while on the road are less interesting. They primarily consist of Kyle attempting to ditch Carlton and Lucy, often resulting with him ending up in a bar or hotel. It gets tiring quickly, especially with the lack of variation given.
Performances in this film were mixed, and not just with the differing actors. Timberlake does a decent job in some parts of the film, but in others he seemed out of his element. Jeff Bridges also suffers from this, and while he isn’t as inconsistent as Timberlake, there are scenes where he didn’t seem to care about the production. The supporting cast is better, possibly due to us not getting to see them as often.
Something that I believe I should make clear is that I do not view this as a comedy — not one bit. There was not a single moment in the film that made me laugh, and I’m someone who really enjoys independent comedies. It’s a road film, yes, and that often makes it seem like a comedy right off the bat, but don’t go into the film expecting a comedy, despite what it might claim. You do get your typical awkward dialogue, but it doesn’t result in much, and it isn’t funny.
If I do have one major complaint about The Open Road, it’s the fact that it is highly predictable. Now, this doesn’t detract from how enjoyable it is, but it does make it just another run-of-the-mill road films. Had it decided to go a different route with its conclusion, it would have ended up being more memorable and recommendable, just because it has that surprise factor. But yes, you are likely to guess exactly how it ends, and how certain character arcs are resolved.
The Open Road is a film where you know how the overall plot is going to turn out — or at least, you can make a pretty solid guess — but the journey, not the destination, makes the film. In this case, the characters and their interactions are fun, but the situations that they get themselves into are not. It’s uninspired, and frankly somewhat boring. It’s not a bad film by any means, but not one that you need to rush out and see either. It’s decent, but lacking in entertainment or enjoyment, and contains average acting and an unfunny script.