Michael Meredith’s The Open Road follows struggling minor league ball player Carlton Garrett (Justin Timberlake) as he receives the news that his mother Katherine (Mary Steenburgen) is having heart trouble and will need surgery as soon as possible in order to live. She, however, is refusing to sign the consent form to do so unless Carlton gets his estranged father, baseball legend Kyle Garrett (Jeff Bridges), to come see her before she goes in.

Carlton enlists his ex-girlfriend/current best friend Lucy (Kate Mara), whom he OBVIOUSLY still has strong feelings for, to join him in going to Ohio to find his father at an autograph signing event due to the legend being unreachable by phone. After the awkward initial encounter and a little convincing, they find themselves at the airport with Kyle conveniently missing his wallet, consequently beginning their journey to Houston, TX in a giant red Hummer instead.

Unfortunately, everything that happens beyond that is expected and cliched, and does little to create a memorable experience for the viewer. The dialogue is decent, and the music suits the mood and style of the film, but the story is unoriginal and you can accurately predict it’s entirety within the first 15 minutes.

The saving grace would be the excellent performances given by Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Tron), Mary Steenburgen (Stepbrothers, Back to the Future III) and Kate Mara (127 Hours), and although Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)  holds his own overall, it seems that he has strength in comedic performances yet falls short of being believable in the dramatic ones, making it hard to believe in the relationship between Carlton and Lucy.

The chemistry between Bridges and Steenburgen’s characters, however, is truly bittersweet and very well portrayed, and Mara shines as the sweet and caring Lucy. As far as the cinematography goes, I didn’t quite understand the purpose of opting for the grainy look every time a scene of the vehicle driving down the road took place, but I appreciated the framing and lighting throughout.

Overall, Michael Meridith didn’t do all he could to give his film that unique presence that so many independent filmmakers have done before him, and this coming after a similarly cliched Three Days of Rain makes me think he never will.