The Tender Bar

2021, Comedy/Drama, 1h 46m

179 Reviews 500+ Ratings

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It's well-acted and suffused with a warm nostalgic glow, but none of that is enough to overcome The Tender Bar's sleepy, sentimental noodling. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

The Tender Bar tells the story of J.R. (Tye Sheridan), a fatherless boy growing up in the glow of a bar where the bartender, his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), is the sharpest and most colorful of an assortment of quirky and demonstrative father figures. As the boy's determined mother (Lily 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.

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Critic Reviews for The Tender Bar

Audience Reviews for The Tender Bar

  • Dec 23, 2021
    When adapting a memoir into a movie, it's important to ask whether the subject has lived an interesting life that people would want to see. With The Tender Bar, based on the 2006 memoir by journalist JR Moehringer, I think the filmmakers lost sight of this. Young JR has elements of an interesting personal experience; his father, a famous radio DJ, has been absent for his whole life yet JR still pines for him while listening to the radio (the father is simply referred to as "The Voice"); his mother goes through chemotherapy for cancer; his grandfather, whom he and his mother have been forced to move back home to live with, is suffering from dementia; his uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) runs the local bar and pushes JR to read mountains of classic literature in order to become a better writer. Any of those elements could be further explored and mined for relatable human drama and bittersweet coming-of-age lessons. That's not what The Tender Bar does. Strangely, it cavalierly jumps around these plot points, never really settling on one for long, only braiding them together in a way that feels fleeting and stalled for building momentum. The choice of mixing in non-linear flash forwards and flashbacks (as well as a narrator) complicates matters and feels like the adaptation was struggling to relay the info it needed. Too much of this movie dwells on the least interesting part of this story, namely JR falling in love with a girl in college who repeatedly dumps him. It's so frustrating to watch especially when we have more interesting scenarios passed up just to watch this dumb kid get his heart broken by this same girl for the umpteenth time. I wish JR had just remained a youngster and we could have focused on his real father figure shaping him, his uncle, and their time spent running the local watering hole. Mysteriously, this movie is directed by George Clooney, who shows no real affinity for the story or its characters. The movie is generally warm and gauzy but bereft of significant personal details to make the drama more resonant. It's like you took a coming-of-age story and melted it down to its most recognizable base components. The Tender Bar is assuredly a case where the appeal of the novel must have been from the voice of its author. The story, at least presented onscreen, is a wistful shrug of a movie with an above-average Affleck performance. It's a nice but dull experience, which is likely an apt description of most ordinary people's lives. Nate's Grade: C+
    Nate Z Super Reviewer

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