George Clooney brings J.R. Moehringer’s memoir, The Tender Bar, to the big screen in a moving film about a fatherless boy.
J.R. Maguire (Daniel Ranier, Tye Sheridan) may not have the most conventional childhood but he makes the best of it. His father ran out on his mother, Dorothy (Lily Rabe), at a young age to where J.R. never really gets to know him. When The Voice (Max Martini), as he calls his father, does want to hang out, you start getting a sense that it probably won’t turn out so well. However, there is one person in the family that J.R. can always depend on: his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck). Charlie owns The Dickens Bar but he’s always there to dispense whatever advice is needed. He becomes more of a father figure than The Voice ever could be. When the film flashes forward, we see J.R.’s life changing as he enrolls in Yale and for a while, he gets a job working for The New York Times.
You’d think that going to Yale and working for the Times would be enough, right? It isn’t. In fact, it feels like the Times is becoming somewhat of a dead-end job because J.R.’s career there doesn’t really go anywhere. Moreover, it’s suggested that he needs to go elsewhere in order to get a better job in journalism. You’re The New York Times and telling someone with their dream job to go elsewhere because your own newsroom isn’t providing what they need to advance their career?!? Oh, really?!? When J.R. isn’t at school or working, he’s constantly hanging out at the bar. All bars, of course, have their regulars so J.R. is frequently around Bobo (Michael Braun), Chief (Max Casella) and Joey D (Matthew Delamater).
The Tender Bar weaves back and forth between the early 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s. It’s a solid approach and gets accompanied by one of the best soundtracks this year. You can say this about quite a few films (Last Night in Soho, Licorice Pizza) but the 1960s and 1970s are one of the best eras for music. The cinematography plays true to the time period with its color palette and zooms. No, not Zoom. It doesn’t just play like a period film but looks like it could have been made some forty years ago!
There are so many great films and performances this year. Honestly, it’s hard to figure out where The Tendar Bar fits in the awards conversation. What I can tell you is that George Clooney gets a beautiful performance out of another Batman, Ben Affleck. Honestly, I prefer Affleck in this film compared to the other one in October. Screenwriter William Monahan solidly adapts the book into a film. You can only pack so much into a film especially with book adaptions. But even so, Clooney and company stay true to the book. They especially make sure to capture the themes if nothing else.
The Tender Bar captures a coming-of-age story with humor and vulnerability. George Clooney has done it again.
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
SCREENWRITER: William Monahan
CAST: Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe, Christopher Lloyd, Max Martini, Rhenzy Feliz, Briana Middleton, Max Casella, Sondra James, Michael Braun, and introducing Daniel Ranier
Amazon Studios releases The Tender Bar in theaters on December 17, 2021 and globally on Prime Video starting January 7, 2022.
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.