the tender bar
director: george clooney (the ides of march, the midnight sky)
starring: ben affleck, tye sheridan, lily rabe, and Christopher lloyd
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A boy growing up on Long Island seeks out father figures among the patrons at his uncle's bar.
From introducing me to a wide variety of films, books, philosophical and spiritual worldviews, my uncle had a profound impact on my life growing up. So with a narrative familiar to my life, I was drawn to the premise of The Tender Bar. While The Tender Bar has some great moments narratively and the acting is faultless, it gets bogged down in too much detail to be truly engaging or emotionally satisfying.
The Tender Bar tells the story of J.R., a fatherless boy growing up in the glow of a bar where the bartender, his Uncle Charlie, is the sharpest and most colourful of an assortment of quirky and demonstrative father figures. As the boy’s determined mother struggles to provide her son with opportunities denied to her — and leave the dilapidated home of her outrageous if begrudgingly supportive father — J.R. begins to gamely, if not always gracefully, pursue his romantic and professional dreams — with one foot persistently placed in Uncle Charlie’s bar.
Narratively The Tender Bar feels too drawn out - even for a relatively short run time of just over an hour and a half. While the story has compelling moments it just meanders too much, without that much at stake for the characters. Sure, there are films out there that are more gentle in nature, that are more observational pieces, but they still have a clear direction and purpose which The Tender Bar doesn’t seem to have.
The acting on display is the star attraction here. Ben Affleck is in some of the best acting form of his life with superb performances over the last few years from Gone Girl to The Last Duel and the underappreciated but nonetheless brilliant The Way Back. It’s a difficult task pulling off the good guy gig but Affleck does it with wonderful poise and believability. Tye Sheridan gives another solid performance, giving further proof that he is a young actor poised for greatness.
While The Tender Bar has some great moments narratively and the acting is faultless, it gets bogged down in too much detail to be truly engaging or emotionally satisfying.