The Tender Bar Image

The Tender Bar

By Alan Ng | December 20, 2021

NEW TO AMAZON PRIME! George Clooney‘s The Tender Bar is based on the memoir of author J.R. Moehringer. While I’ve never heard the guy, nor have I read anything he’s written. But, who am I to say you can’t make a film about a complete stranger? Nonetheless, Moehringer’s life is a sweet coming-of-age story.

Tye Sheridan and Daniel Ranieri play the older and younger versions of Moehringer. The movie opens with the young J.R. and his mother (Lily Rabe) returning home to her parents’ (Christopher Lloyd and Sondra James) in “disgrace” after J.R.’s father (Max Martini) abandons them. Also living at his grandparents is Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), who runs a local bar called The Dickens.

Through Uncle Charlie, J.R. quickly learns about growing up and not letting his situation keep him down.”

We then jump back and forth between J.R.’s childhood and young adulthood. Through Uncle Charlie, J.R. quickly learns about growing up and not letting his situation keep him down. The bar is called Dicken’s because the walls are lined with books, and soon J.R. is an avid reader with grand aspirations to become a writer. Mom slaves away at her job with the single goal of sending J.R. to an ivy league school. While his father, a famous D.J., known as The Voice, occasionally visits. Their relationship can be best described by the song, Cat In The Cradle. He’s a drunk, deadbeat who makes a flurry of unfulfilled promises.

Spoilers are forthcoming, but The Tender Bar is based on a real person, so these are only minor. J.R. ultimately goes to Yale with the dream of becoming a writer. It is here he meets soon-to-be best friends Wesley (Rhenzy Feliz) and Jimmy (Ivan Leung). In a literature class, J.R. falls for the out-of-his-league Sidney (Briana Middleton). They immediately hook up, and while visiting her parents for Christmas, Sidney reveals she’s dating another man.

Directed by Clooney, written by William Monahan, and starring Ben Affleck, the drama is not exactly the kind of film you’d expect from this collaboration. It’s missing that grand cinematic scale you’d assume these A-listers would deliver. Tonally, it feels as small as Granpa’s home. I say all this because expectations have to be managed.

The Tender Bar (2021)

Directed: George Clooney

Written: William Monahan

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Ben Affleck, Daniel Ranieri, Christopher Lloyd, Lily Rabe, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

The Tender Bar Image

"…cinematic comfort food."

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