Based on J.R. Moehringer’s coming-of-age book, this is a somewhat sweet drama that tells the story of a fatherless boy Young Jr. (Daniel Ranieri), growing up with his loving, determined mother (Lily Rabe), his wise, advice-dispensing Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), and his eccentric Grandpa (Christopher Lloyd). As he gets older, he begins to pursue the Ivy League education his mother wanted for him, while also keeping a matter-of-fact outlook on life thanks to the time he spends in his uncle’s bar and the patrons within it.
Director George Clooney and screenwriter William Monahan don’t quite hit a home run with this familiar but likeable enough story, but it definitely has it’s moments of sweetness, drama and charm. Tye Sheridan steps in a the young adult version of Jr., but is quite bland and Ranieri definitely steals the role from him. Affleck comes through here playing a gruff, endearing character reminiscent of some of his best ’90s roles. Ranieri, Rabe and Lloyd are also strong, but the most memorable work is courtesy of newcomer Briana Middleton. She plays J.R.’s first love, an ambitious student who’s far more complex than the typical cinematic dream girl and makes their relationship over the course of the movie much more interesting than it otherwise might have come around as.
Still, the low-key approach taken here, accompanied by a wonderful period-appropriate soundtrack makes The Tender Bar a decent, heartfelt watch.
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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR
“THE TENDER BAR” is now playing in select theaters in LA/NYC going nationwide Wednesday, December 22, 2021 / Global release on Amazon Prime Friday, January 7, 2022