The Movie Justin Timberlake Doesn’t Want You to See
If you’ve seen the trailer for the upcoming Clint Eastwood flick Trouble with the Curve and thought, “Justin Timberlake in a baseball movie—that sounds familiar”… well, you’re probably an even bigger movie geek than me. But nearly three years ago, JT played a minor-leaguer who tries to reconnect with his Hall of Famer father (Jeff Bridges) in The Open Road. Never heard of it? The ex-N Syncer probably wants it that way. The film, which cost a reported $10 million to make, grossed less than $20,000 in theaters before quickly heading to DVD. But with Timberlake costarring with a pair of Oscar winners (Bridges and Mary Steenburgen) as his parents, how bad could it be?
The answer: really, really bad. Shot before his dramatic-acting breakthrough in The Social Network, The Open Road finds Timberlake struggling to maintain his control and (to mix my baseball metaphors) getting called out on a check-swing. When he’s trying to be serious, like in the scenes with his mom—who demands he bring his estranged father back to see her before she has life-threatening surgery—Timberlake frequently looks like he’s holding back a smile, or even a laugh. Not that you could blame him for cracking up at the laughable script by director Michael Meredith (a frequent collaborator of Wings of Desire’s Wim Wenders, who inexplicably produced this corny turkey). “Life is all about screwing up,” Steenburgen’s stereotypically wise old dad (Repo Man‘s Harry Dean Stanton!) tells his grandson, and that’s a message Meredith took to heart. This isn’t a screwball comedy; it’s a screwed-up dramedy.
I’ve never seen Bridges give a bad performance, but he seems to be acting on half-speed in his scenes with Timberlake, perhaps out of fear that the boy can’t keep up. Only when he (finally!) reunites with Steenburgen does the actor turn up the heat to Crazy Heart/True Grit level. For his part, Timberlake seems more comfortable with comedy—especially short-form sketches, like when he guest-hosts SNL— than he is with drama. If you put a gun to my head (and you’d have to) and forced me to watch either his rotten rom-com Friends with Benefits or his thrill-free chase flick In Time again, I’d pick the former. Timberlake does display some chemistry in Road with American Horror Story‘s always-cute Kate Mara as his ex-girlfriend who goes along for the ride; he’d later costar with her sister, Rooney, in The Social Network.
In Trouble with the Curve, Timberlake plays a young baseball scout love-interest of the daughter (Amy Adams) of one of his rivals (Eastwood), who takes her along on one last trip. Hmmm, a baseball backdrop, a father-and-child reunion, a road-trip romance…one can only hope JT and Co. don’t take as many wrong turns in Curve as they did on The Open Road.
Did you see The Open Road? Will you catch Curve? Throw out a comment!