Film: Tender Bar
Starring: Ben Affleck, Ty Sheridan, Daniel Rnieri, Lily Rabe,
Director: George Cloony
Review: Scott Stankus
Rating: 4X's out of 5X's
This memoir by Pulitzer Prize winning writer J. R. Moehringer turned movie, directed by George Clooney and starring Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, and Daniel Ranieri. The Tender Bar tells his coming-of-age story, of JR who grew up in a crazy home and local bar run by his sage, self-taught uncle. JR struggles with becoming the success his family needs and coming to terms with the father he never had.
This is a story of a boy whose father could not take on his responsibilities and thus that role was filled by his others. His mother, Grandfather, his Uncle and even his uncle’s barfly buddies. None of the people in his life were well off, but they gave what they could, even if it just meant celebrating accomplishments and backing the kid up (buying the next round). This is about he family and the friends that become family. Whether the packed house, a softball game, bowling, or just bullshitting at the Dickens, though never a lot of money between any of them, there is aways love, and support, that shines through.
As you can imagine Ben Affleck clearly does an amazing job in his role as Uncle Charlie, offering up a wealth of knowledge born of his love of books and real-world experiences. Daniel Ranieri as a young JR is both funny and refreshing. He has great timing in this role. Christopher Lloyd as his curmudgeon but helpful grandfather proves comic relief and shines when needed. Lily Rabe really captured the sacrifices of being a single parent, the hope for a better future for her son. Tye Sheridan shines as the young adult JR, capturing the pressure and expectations, trying to figure out his path once the structure of school is gone. Trying to balance the working-class life he has always known and pulling away to something new and unknown, a chance to be the success his family always hoped for.
Where the movie drops out for me is JR dealing with his on again off again love and my frustration at JR limiting himself or just expecting things to happen instead of making things happen for himself. It got old fast. That being said, some of those scenes do offer comedic relief while painting the picture of social and financial class separations of the time.
This film, while based in NY, was filmed around Massachusetts and being a kid from Worcester, MA. I was excited when I heard about the film being shot in places I know. A movie centered around a bar on the bottom of a 3-Decker (google that if you must) made me laugh and wonder how many people would be confused as to what they are looking at. The beauty of it, these places make it easy to send the audience back in time to the 70s and 80s as not much has changed over the decades, just add some old cars out front. Depending on the neighborhood you may already find some that are period correct such as life in the working towns of Massachusetts.
Although this movie was critiqued poorly every which way till Sunday. I think that many may be far too jaded by similar films to really enjoy it. For people that have grown up working class will relate to this story and the regulars at The Dickens Bar. Not a lot of money, but still managing to get by. This movie is about a boy who finds family in those who show up. The people who pat you on the back, share a drink with you or tell you when you are messing up. The Tender Bar is a movie about life, and it's not perfect, but then, life never is.
The Tender Bar is now available on Amazon Prime. Despite lackluster reviews by most outlets, it has a 72% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and Ben Affleck has been nominated for a SAG Award for his role as Uncle Charlie.