Review: The Tender Bar

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A reflective journey told via a gripping coming of age story that features one of Ben Affleck’s best performances of his career, The Tender Bar is an all around great film that tugs at the heartstrings.

Based on the memoir of the same name telling the story of J.R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar follows J.R. as he seeks a better future for himself with his supportive mother (Lily Rabe) and Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) in his corner. This is about as warm and… tender… a film we could get, one that leaves you feeling good at the end in what is just an overall solid film. Director George Clooney brings the source material to life, thanks to a beautiful script from writer William Monahan, with superb cinematic prowess that is elevated by wonderful performances by all. Tye Sheridan and Lily Rabe both explore their characters with emotional range and strength, both giving exceptional performances, but it is Ben Affleck who steals the show. He spends most of the time behind the bar spewing advice and pouring drinks for a regular clientele, a strong father figure in J.R.’s life and an unsuspecting quarterback for the whole family. Affleck has a commanding presence in each of his scenes, balances heart and humor with precision, and absolutely must be considered in the Best Supporting Actor race.

Some may take issue with the lack of any true drama in the story beyond relationship woes and developmental hurdles, but that absence allows for authenticity and emotional connection that cannot be manufactured. Clooney’s The Tender Bar is more grounded and straightforward than many of his previous directorial efforts, a welcomed change. There is something about a story where a guy makes something out of nothing that will simply hit home for viewers. The Tender Bar is one of the best films of the year.

The Tender Bar hits limited theaters on December 17th, 2021 before expanding nationwide on December 22nd. It will stream on Amazon Prime Video on January 7th, 2022.

Rating: 5/5

Photo from Variety

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