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The Tender Bar review – funny, touching and self-effacing

December 7, 2021

This review of the original Amazon movie The Tender Bar is spoiler-free.

The tender bar does not have much to say? For God’s sake, overcome yourself. Yes it has its flaws, but it is based on this boy’s life (pun intended, Leo). Have we gotten so stuck that growing up in the poor working class and earning a full ride to Yale University is no longer the subject of a good movie? George Clooney’s adaptation of JR Moehringer’s reminiscences has three advantages: George Clooney didn’t choose himself, Ben Affleck gives one of his best performances, and it’s remarkably erased for a memory.

Moehringer The Tender Bar: A Memoir recounts memories of his childhood in a small hamlet (yes, a hamlet!) of Manhasset, NY. His name is JR (played as a boy by Daniel Ranieri, a young man by Tye Sheridan, and narrated by an adult by Ron Livingston) short for “Junior”. His father is a radio DJ who left him while he was in the womb – he has no idea what he looks like. He was raised by his mother (played by the precious Lily Rabe) in his father’s house (played by the legendary Christopher Loyd).

The only male father figure is his uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck). He has an insatiable appetite for reading and runs a bar named after his favorite author, Charles Dickens. He’s always there for him, guiding him through life’s most difficult times. Including his mother’s cancer, the break-ups and making sure his grades stay so high that he has a chance to go to college, which he never got.

The Tender Bar is modest, modest and grounded. Still, the adaptation of William Monahan, a man truly known for his very dark and craggy crime dramas, is devoid of sensationalism, which is a bit of a high-flying act to pull off. Clooney and Monahan make sure Charlie steps in to comfort JR to talk to him even in heartwarming moments. Then when Sheridan’s JR asks his uncle if he’s like his dad, there’s no sugar coating. He tells her to watch her alcohol consumption. It’s surprising and one of the most refreshing and honest moments I’ve seen in a movie in a very long time.

One of his best roles is Ben Affleck’s Uncle Charlie. He’s the heart of the film, and his turn is never out of character – which has been a crutch of his action-movie characterization since. Armageddon. He and Sheridan are responsible for most of the comedic relief, with Affleck’s reaction shots and timing being truly priceless. Even Sheridan is aware of playing a very modest man who is open about his flaws, which is rare.

Is the film perfect? Of course not. Clooney has been in free fall since Good night and good luck. Here, frankly, his choice of songs for the film’s soundtrack and editing moments are overplayed and have been completed millions of times. Granted, this is a movie that has already been made, which takes away a bigger impact than the story can have. However, that shouldn’t be enough to stop the film from being an enjoyable experience for casual moviegoers and movie buffs alike.

The Tender Bar is a welfare story about a child brought up in a village. The adaptation of Clooney has a warm heart with a sense of humor that goes with its circumstances. In other words, he knows what he is and wants to be. It’s a rare thing these days in Hollywood.

Amazon Prime Video’s The Tender Bar premieres on December 22, 2021.

The Tender Bar review – funny, touching, and self-effacing first appeared on Ready Steady Cut.