A neighborhood pub in Manhasset, Long Island, becomes a second home for a fatherless boy in The Tender Bar, a poignant and inspiring coming-of-age story directed by George Clooney. J.R. (Tye Sheridan and Daniel Ranieri), whose father disappeared from his life before he was old enough to speak, moves into his grandfather’s dilapidated house after he and his mother (Lily Rabe) once again hit hard times. Under the unconventional tutelage of his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), a charismatic, self-educated bartender, and a handful of the bar’s colorful regulars, J.R. grows into a young man determined to fulfill his dream of becoming a writer in this fiercely funny and blazingly honest adaptation of J.R. Moehringer’s bestselling memoir.
There’s only one person that you have to prove anything to in life and that is yourself. While you may have supporters or even those who want to see you fail, at the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with the decisions that you make. Win, lose or draw, you’re the one that has to live with the consequences of your actions. So, be the main character of your story, make mistakes, learn from them, and just live.
“Don’t look for your dad to save you, and don’t play sports.”
Who is the person that helped shape your outlook on life? Could be a friend, a neighbor, a teacher, a sibling, or simply your parents. However, for many young boys, especially of a certain era, it was their uncle. Based on J.R. Moehringer’s memoir of the same name, The Tender Bar is a charming coming-of-age story that centers around family. The film harnesses the heart, honesty, narration, and humor of the 1970s. It was a time of change and exactly when a young J.R. needed his Uncle Charlie to teach him the “male sciences” since his father isn’t present. This is a story that reminds you of how special familial bonds are and how one can succeed despite the absence of one of their parents. This recollection takes you back to the days when “it takes a village” still meant something. A time when cars still had character, everyone knew your name, and kids could buy a pack of smokes for whoever needed them at home. More than anything, the film also showed me that we need more Uncle Affleck. Regardless of the story’s initial intent of showing what a person can elevate to when watered like a plant with love and wisdom, it rightfully becomes a love letter to Ben Affleck’s Uncle Charlie. Played with the charisma of a street hustler and the glow of a well-traveled philosopher, the Batman actor steals your attention with charm while delivering lines smoother than the whiskey he serves at his bar. This feel-good film, filled with sounds of old, has a multitude of lessons that still hold up today. Whether it’s how to treat a lady or how to chase what you’re passionate about, there’s something we all can relate to. It also has a certain warmth to it, even in its darker moments. Even with some slower moments, the family dynamic is one of the best you’ll see. This is a well-written film with plenty to offer. Not only do you get your rags to riches fix but you also get the boy meets girl narrative as well. The Tender Bar is a lot of fun and very relatable. Its rewatchability is high.
LILY RABE and DANIEL RANIERI star in TENDER BAR Photo: CLAIRE FOLGER © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC
Pacing & Pop
The pacing, like the film’s tone, is warm and smooth. However, there is one abrupt transition that threw me off. It’s not enough to ruin the story but it’s a bit confusing. What popped for me was Uncle Charlie. Like it says in the film, everyone needs an Uncle Charlie.
Characters & Chemistry
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Christopher Lloyd, Lily Rabe, Max Martini, Rhenzy Feliz, Briana Middleton, Max Casella, Sondra James, Michael Braun, Daniel Ranieri
While the film may focus on the growth and evolution of J.R. (Tye Sheridan), the standout of the story is Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck). Affleck brings all the charm, magnetism, and worldly sophistication to a small-town setting in an effortless performance. Even as the film dives deeper into J.R.’s college life, you can’t help but hope that he’ll go back to his uncle for advice.
The Tender Bar is now playing in theaters nationwide as of December 22, 2021, and will begin streaming globally on Prime Video on January 7, 2022. Stay safe and enjoy.
Director: George Clooney
Writer: William Monahan
Producers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Ted Hope
Executive Producers: Barbara A. Hall, J.R. Moehringer
Runtime: 1h 46m
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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