SYNOPSIS: The Tender Bar tells the story of J.R. (Sheridan), a fatherless boy growing up in the glow of a bar where the bartender, his Uncle Charlie (Affleck), is the sharpest and most colorful of an assortment of quirky and demonstrative father figures. As the boy’s determined mother (Rabe) struggles to provide her son with opportunities denied to her — and leave the dilapidated home of her outrageous if begrudgingly supportive father (Christopher Lloyd) — 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. The Tender Bar is based on the best-selling memoir of the same name by J.R. Moehringer. 


Everyone deserves an Uncle Charlie in their lives. A street-smart uncle that generously serves nuggets of wisdom when you need them. Bring you bowling and treat you like a peer rather than an ordinary nephew. Maybe he will even gift you a Cadillac later in life as well.

With a screenplay written by Oscar winner William Monahan (The Departed) and directed by George Clooney, The Tender Bar is based on a memoir by Pulitzer winner and journalist J.R. Moehringer. It’s in short, a coming-of-age tale that basically stalls whenever Ben Affleck is missing from the screen.

J.R. is a young boy who follows his mother, Dorothy (Lily Rabe) back to Long Island to live with his grandparents after leaving his irresponsible father. Growing up without a father figure, he is fortunate to have Uncle Charlie (Affleck) acting as his surrogate father while the patrons at the bar he worked at chips in the occasional drunken advice. For whatever reason, Dorothy is determined that J.R. goes to Yale with the rest of the uneven story focusing on a grown-up J.R. (Tye Sheridan) and his career and lacklustre love life.

The Tender Bar marks Clooney’s eight full-length feature and definitely one of his most forgettable. The movie can’t decide it wants to be a piece on Uncle Charlie or J.R. that it lacks a significant voice in the end. Told from the perspective of J.R., the movie takes viewers on a slow brooding journey mostly detailing his obsession with an affluent girl named Sidney to the time he spent at New York Times as a copyboy. Largely nothing extraordinary and nothing dramatic.

The only commendable moments are the ones with Uncle Charlie where our favourite bartender dispenses his trademark witty outlook on life and his constant encouragement of J.R. being a writer. Despite a laidback, down-to-earth portrayal, Affleck perfectly nailed the character of Charlie although he is very much an enigma by the end of the flick. It’s a perfect example where a supporting character outshines the main star or character of the movie or in this case, J.R. played by Tye Sheridan who looks kind of uninterested throughout.

While the story is middling, the soundtrack is brilliant and the production and costume design which depicts the 70’s are sharp. Last but not least, no offence to J.R. Moehringer but maybe George Clooney should pick a better adaptation for his next directorial piece. This one just lacks a certain affection and fails miserly to charm even though Uncle Charlie is a gem.


Review by Linus Tee



Genre: Drama
Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Christopher Lloyd, Lily Rabe, Max Martini, Sondra James, Max Casella, Rhenzy Feliz, Briana Middleton, Ron Livingston 
Director: George Clooney
Rating: M18
Year Made: 2021



Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins