This coming-of-age film follows J.R. as he navigates childhood, college, and working life with the help of his uncle Charlie.
George Clooney’s latest directorial effort stars Ben Affleck as a bartender and father figure to our protagonist J.R.
The coming-of-age film tells the story of real-life novelist and journalist J.R. Moehringer and his journey from boyhood to his early twenties.
We first meet J.R. as a young boy in the ’70s, when he and his mother Dorothy (Lily Rabe) move back in with her parents and brother Charlie (Affleck) in her childhood home in Long Island, New York, when she runs out of money.
J.R.’s father left the scene shortly after he was born and reaches out when he feels like it (not very often), so the boy finds a father figure in his uncle Charlie and the patrons at his bar, The Dickens.
The Tender Bar, based on Moehringer’s memoir of the same name, tells a relatively simple but sweet story that should make you feel good.
There isn’t a great deal in terms of plot but there’s still plenty to enjoy about the character’s journey; watching J.R.’s bond with his uncle grow and grow and the bar’s patrons embrace him so warmly is lovely and the film’s most captivating quality.
This means that the movie loses its way and viewers’ interest might start to dip when the older J.R. (now Tye Sheridan) goes off to Yale.
The narrative focus was no longer on him and his uncle and all about his new college life, his on-off love interest Sidney (Briana Middleton) and his subsequent job at The New York Times.
Thankfully, the story eventually comes full circle and concludes in a satisfying and heartwarming way, so it’s just a shame about that lacklustre middle portion.
Affleck received a Golden Globe nomination earlier this week for his supporting role and it’s clear to see why.
His Charlie is a cool, fun uncle with buckets of personality. He helps shape J.R. as a man and as a writer and wants him to reach his full potential.
Rabe does well as the supportive but perpetually stressed mum who is determined for her son to have a better life.
If you fancy a warm, feel-good character-driven film with a banging soundtrack and cool period costumes, then The Tender Bar may well be for you.
In selected cinemas from Friday 17th December and on Amazon Prime Video from 7th January.
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