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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

The Tender Bar (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Starring Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe, Christopher Lloyd, Daniel Ranieri, Max Martini, Sondra James, Michael Braun, Matthew Delamater, Max Casella, Rhenzy Feliz, Ivan Leung, Briana Middleton, Billy Meleady, Kate Avallone, Mark Boyett, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Ezra Knight, David Carl, Shannon Collis, Keira Jo Lassor and the voice of Ron Livingston.

Screenplay by William Monahan.

Directed by George Clooney.

Distributed by Amazon Studios. 104 minutes. Rated R.

Coming of age dramas are always easier to get behind when you can relate to the protagonist. The Tender Bar is based on a best-selling memoir by JR Moehringer. Like Moehringer, I was a child in the 1970s and a college student in the 1980s. Also like him I grew up in the outskirts of a big city (he was in Long Island, NY, I was in the Philadelphia suburbs). I was also raised by a single mother with a father who was rarely in the picture. Like Moehringer I was also an English major (back when you could still hope to make a living at that) who dreamed of being an acclaimed writer. I also had a college relationship which I hoped would become serious eventually turn ugly. And my favorite bar ever was also called The Dickens (The long-gone Dickens Inn in Olde City Philly.)

So, I can definitely relate to the story being told here. Therefore, it’s kind of a surprise to say that while I liked The Tender Bar, I can’t say I loved it. It had some great points, and yet other parts felt a bit forced. In some ways it was unusual, not following normal coming-of-age clichés, and in other ways it felt a tiny bit predictable.

It’s definitely worth seeing, but it’s not going to change anyone’s life.

Part of the problem perhaps is that the main character is not the most interesting character here – in fact he was a bit bland in comparison to his colorful, eccentric family. Truth is, The Tender Bar would have probably been a lot more entertaining if it centered around Ben Affleck’s character of Uncle Charlie than Moehringer himself (he was played as a boy by Daniel Ranieri and a young man by Tye Sheridan).

Which is not to say that The Tender Bar is a bad film or a terrible use of your time. It’s just not as good as it could be.

The Tender Bar is also not as quirkily unique as it may believe. In fact, it is only one of two films released on the same day which is a period piece which revolves at least partially around an aspiring writer trying to get their first big break with The New York Times (the other film is A Journal for Jordan) – because, you know, The Times is so open to untested writers.

Yet, as sturdily directed by actor-director George Clooney (Good Night, And Good Luck) and written by William Monahan (The Departed) and with a terrific cast, there is much of value here. It’s a nice film mostly, about people who care for each other and love each other.

If nothing overly exciting or surprising happens, maybe that’s okay. The Tender Bar is a slice of life about coming of age, an appreciation of family, friends, good music, good drink and good writing. It’s interesting in the way that all life stories are – more to those who experienced it than outsiders, but still a peek behind the scenes into another existence. While a few little plot points felt a bit suspect to me, The Tender Bar mostly serves up the goods.

And the drinks are on the house.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: December 22, 2021.


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