The Tender Bar; Grade: C
The Tender Bar tells a story about a boy named JR (Daniel Ranieri) who he and his mother (Lily Rabe) moved back in to his grandfather’s (Christopher Lloyd) house. JR preferred his grandpas house solely giving him a better chance of a home, where home to JR meant surrounded by people. JR admired his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) whom owned a bar in Long Island, as well as being the friendly neighborhood bar tender as well. Uncle Charlie taught JR at a young age he was no good to play sports, as he should shift his mind to something else. Uncle Charlie asked JR what he liked to do, as JR’s reply is reading books, which Uncle Charlie says JR should become a writer. JR (Tye Sherdian) now as a young adult, still has dreams of becoming a writer, however before doing so he shall fulfill his mother’s dream of him going to Yale.
The Tender Bar feels kind of similar to last years Hillbilly Elegy, as both films were based off a memoir, as both main characters in a way have family issues, and both films are given the same grade. I would say The Tender Bar is definitely a more tamed version, JR’s family yes is kind of dysfunctional however not even close to the unfortunate circumstances of J.D.’s household.
The cast of The Tender Bar all around was solid. Ben Affleck honestly delivers a pretty good performance as Uncle Charlie, whom is playing a father figure type role to JR as JR never really had a father. Uncle Charlie pretty much was the cool Uncle everyone wants in their life, an Uncle in which treats their nephew/niece respectfully, granting them a grand time out, while also fulfilling quality advice in which will help benefit their identity and of course their future. Uncle Charlie makes his presence known within every scene, he’s comfort food to the soul that you can pretty much always count on him to brighten your mood and day even when things are going south or just becoming directionless.
Tye Sherdian delivers a solid performance of JR. With the character JR… If you’re a writer of some kind, you can relate to the character as far as him being held back in pursuing a career in writing. Those whom have potential in becoming a writer but don’t make the step to go forward with it, often are heavily distracted by the concepts of life. Whether it be involving yourself in a significant other, fulfilling needs of others, taking on jobs that are not close to what you’re passionate about, or heck even the past weighing you down such as the dark shadow of JR’s father. Of course a lot of us want to pursue a writing project, however a lot of us get held back by life itself, as we continue to hold back on executing the projects we want to write about. So I felt in a way: Watching JR’s life unfold, was the moral message heavily pointed at more specifically writers, I think that could’ve been the point of this whole story in a way.
This is George Clooney’s third film in the last four years that he has directed, as I gotta say all these films have one thing in common: Mediocrity.
The story of The Tender Bar as a tolerable, however it does have problems. For starters I don’t like how this was edited, especially from the transitions from young boy to young adult of JR. I felt more could’ve told as far as JR’s younger life especially in high school, than just fast forwarding to the Yale application letter… Like I wanted to know about JR’s writing in his middle/high school days, as well as being informed about if he still wanted to pursue in writing despite his mother wanting him to be a lawyer. Also: The way the film transitions back and forth from child, to young adult JR on the train station… It’s edited as if this was going to end up the conclusion, whether he’s going to Yale or not. It felt like an important moment where JR is reflecting on life, however it’s totally the opposite as I’m not too sure why it’s edited like this was going to be a big ordeal in the story, you can even criticize on what the importance of this “interview” was for?! Was it an interview at Yale? Was it an interview for a writing gig? I guess it doesn’t matter because we never get to see that interview unfold in the film.
Some sequences were a bit dull in the story, here and there can be uneventful at times. You can also say like not getting enough of JR’s life as a middle/high schooler, there are some areas in the story in which you could’ve seen yourself or wanted more out of characters and such. The film is heavily focused on JR which I understand since this is based off a memoir, however sometimes the supporting characters can feel not presentable, as you’re wondering what happened to them?! JR has moments of being an intriguing character, but there are moments in which doesn’t justify why exactly am I watching these moments, rather than learning about other characters that could potentially be more interesting? I think if you’re not a writer at all: The ending can feel completely pointless, as I can understand that as I thought the ending itself was a bit of let down for me. I prefer Hillbilly Elegy because the point in that movie is consumable, with The Tender Bar however you have to dig a bit to try and make up the moral point of the story.
Overall, The Tender Bar was just ok. If you’re in for a double feature featuring two films based off a memoir that are both mediocre, watch this with Hillbilly Elegy, at least both offer different tones I will say. -Mitch Smietana