The Tender Bar Image

The Tender Bar

By Alan Ng | December 20, 2021

With that, The Tender Bar is a sweet coming-of-age story for anyone who has had to work hard to get where they are when life gave them nothing from the start. J.R. is that kid with all the potential in the world and needed someone to guide that potential along because the schools ain’t doin’ it.

Then there’s good old Uncle Charlie, and Ben Affleck plays the role of the street-wise Ben Kenobi to perfection. He is a man of wisdom, considering he’s not done much with his life except run a bar. Books were his school, and the bar was where he learned about life — particularly how he respects his regulars forging lifetime friendships. Of course, he passes these lessons on to J.R.

“…Affleck plays the role of the street-wise Ben Kenobi to perfection.”

What I liked about The Tender Bar is what I miss about growing up in the 1970s. When we get to the older J.R., performed by Tye Sheridan, it’s where we get into his daddy issues, and J.R. is forced to confront his need to become “someone” in life to prove his father wrong and impress a girl who doesn’t necessarily want him. Today, we’re so hyper-focused on “who we are” and forcing others to accept “who we are.” Back then, becoming “who we are” was about overcoming obstacles, building character through adversity, and not giving a damn what others think of us.

The only weakness in the movie is that it plays exactly like a memoir. It is essentially a series of moments in J.R.’s life strung together by voice-over narration of future J.R. (Ron Livingston). William Monahan picks those pertinent moments that define J.R.’s character and journey, including a sweet moment with the incredible Christopher Lloyd as Grandpa taking J.R. to a Father/Son breakfast at school. This structure works but will not be everyone’s cup of tea.

I liked The Tender Bar for its simple story and fantastic performances. But, honestly, it works best as a straight-to-streaming title, as it hits familiar beats and feels small in scope. Clooney has concocted cinematic comfort food.

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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