You can tell that "The Tender Bar" might have worked better on the page as it was intended, for those that are into inspirational, personal, coming-of-age stories. But the memoir - by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, J.R. Moehringer - becomes a sloshy, melodramatic snooze-fest as adapted by director George Clooney, with a screenplay by Academy Award winning scribe, William Monahan ("The Departed").
We tend to remember our pasts with rose-colored glasses, and "The Tender Bar" is the gleamy remembrance of J.R. (Tye Sheridan as a teenager, Daniel Ranieri as a child), a young boy living a somewhat normal suburban existence on Long Island. His father left, but since dad works as a local radio DJ known as "The Voice" (Max Martini), he sort of looms over the boy. Mom (Lily Rabe) is a hard-working, "keep-the-family-together"-type, still living under the roof of her half-senile dad, J.R.'s grandfather (Christopher Lloyd).
But it's Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) who is really the father-figure in J.R.'s life...him and the other patrons of his local bar. J.R. hangs out there, learns life-lessons from Uncle Charlie, and dreams of going off to a prestigious college like Yale (he eventually does, where he learns many other valuable life-lessons from a girl he meets there, played by Brianna Middleton).
There's nothing particularly offensive to "The Tender Bar"...as a drink, I guess it could be described as going down smooth. But it doesn't have anything particular interesting about it...it's flavors don't quite linger. Affleck - sorely underrated as an actor over the past few years - gives the movie its pulse, but when he's off-screen or we're away from the bar, it's pretty much closing time.
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
Based on the book by J.R. Moehringer.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Daniel Ranieri, Lily Rabe, Christopher Lloyd, Max Martini.
Directed by George Clooney ("The Midnight Sky," "Suburbicon," "The Monuments Men," "The Ides of March," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind").
"The Tender Bar" is in theaters on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021 and streaming on Amazon Prime on January 7th, 2022.
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