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George Clooney’s new movie in Prime Video

by Stewart Cole

George Clooney’s new film, The Tender Bar, starring Ben Affleck, Lily Rabe, Daniel Ranieri, Tye Sheridan and Christopher Lloyd, is now on Prime Video, after opening in select theaters in the US on December 17, 2021. The Tender Bar is a moving film about the power that unites the family.

Based on the memoirs of JR Moehringer and adapted by William Monahan, The Tender Bar tells the story of JR and his family. JR and his mother live with her parents in Long Island. It’s a full house when the whole family is there, but JR does not mind. He prefers it to being alone with his mother. JR has an absent father, whose voice he hears regularly on the radio, much to the disappointment of the rest of the family. JR has his uncle Charlie teach him the way of the world. He quickly becomes a father figure for the boy. Through his influence, JR discovers that he wants to become a writer. But his determined mother wants to go to Yale and study law.

The Tender Bar is the same adulthood story that has been shown in the past for a boy looking for a paternal figure. The Tender Bar although it permeates the warm glow of nostalgia.

“Tender” is the crucial word in the fascinating adaptation of Moehringer’s memoirs by George Clooney. There is a tenderness, even in the most brutal moments, to the way these characters are portrayed. It is the tenderness of remembering, of looking back affectionately on a past that is long gone. The film’s at its best when it comes to how these miscellaneous characters go – from the screaming grandfather (played by a great Christopher Lloyd), who wants to look like he’s recklessly supporting his children, to the bartender uncle, who reads a lot and takes care of his nephew as if he were his son – they interact and support each other.

The focus, however, of The Tender Bar is the relationship between JR and Charlie’s uncle. Much of the film is dedicated to showing how the two are connected. There is something very lovable about the way Ben Affleck portrays Uncle Charlie, full of charm and wisdom to pass on to his young nephew. But somewhere on the edge, his image begins to fade. This is a man who is clearly idealized by his nephew and his portrayal in the film suggests just that. Charlie still lives with his parents and works at a bar called The Dickens Bar. JR describes him as a self-taught man, honest and straightforward. Uncle Charlie spends most of his time in the movie giving JR advice that the young man does not always listen to. Over the years, it is a paternal bond established between JR and Uncle Charlie.

One of the downsides of this movie is the way Lily Rabe’s character as a mother fades into the background. However, the movie already foretells it in its original scene, when mom leaves the frame while JR looks at Charlie’s uncle who is playing baseball. The film tells us that she feels like a failure who returned to her orphanage with her parents and that she is determined that her son will have the education he did not receive. But beyond that, the film, and consequently the narrator, her son, seems to have no real interest in her. We viewers, for example, never find out what her relationship was like with JR’s father, or what struggle she may have faced as an unmarried mother.

Neither Uncle Charlie nor Mom, or really anyone else in the movie, feel like complete characters, but rather like the memory of who they were for JR, the narrator of this story. This is where the movie might get out of hand. Instead of focusing on family dynamics, the film focuses more on showing a writer’s journey through adulthood – characterized by three different actors, Daniel Ranieri, in an incredible debut of an actor impersonating J. R. Tye Sheridan as a young man and Ron Livingston’s narrative voice as a larger JR

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