Film Review – The Tender Bar (2021)

The Tender Bar

Title – The Tender Bar (2021) 

Director – George Clooney (Leatherheads) 

Cast – Tye Sheridan, Ben Affleck, Daniel Ranieri, Christopher Lloyd, Lily Rabe 

Plot – Growing up in Long Island with his single mother (Rabe) and her dysfunctional family that includes father figure uncle and bar manager Charlie (Affleck), JR (Ranieri and Sheridan) navigates his youth and early adulthood on his quest to become a writer. 

“You’re a writer the minute you say you are”

Review by Eddie on 22/03/2022

Looking for nice things to say about The Tender Bar, director George Clooney’s latest star-studded awards chaser, at least you can say its better than his last couple of behind the camera efforts Suburbicon and Midnight Sky, although if we’re being honest, that’s not much of a feat in itself. 

Struggling for well over a decade to find his director mojo after early success with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney seeks to find magic in his adaptation of J.R. Moehringer’s autobiographical tale The Tender Bar but his well-filmed but cold and unfinished feeling drama lacks any heart, soul or imagination as it feels like a half-baked attempt at life affirming reflection that’s characters never feel alive or vibrant enough to make an impact on its audience. 

All the ingredients are certainly there, true life tale, larger than life figures and a farting Doc Emmett Brown but Clooney never finds the right balance for his tale as both Daniel Ranieri and Tye Sheridan’s JR fail to provide us with the winning combination that has been found in so many similar coming of age and family focused films of the past. 

Told in a mixture of childhood scenes and teenager/young adult moments JR finds himself in as his mother moves him in with her dysfunctional family that importantly includes Ben Affleck’s uncle and bar manager Charlie, you’re constantly left in a state of waiting for Tender to hit the high notes as it threatens to become the film it might’ve been had the spark it’s missing been found but nothing in the film feels fully formed from Charlie and JR’s important father and son like relationship, JR’s quest to find himself as a writer or most lacking in the film JR’s romance with Briana Middleton’s Sidney that feels more like a distraction rather than an engaging story arc. 

Curiously also for the film that is billed as a young boy finds himself and learns about humanity/who he is under the tutelage of his unconventional uncle and his bar’s patrons, Tender never really succeeds at bringing this part of JR’s real life story to life as the bar and its colourful occupants are side players too JR’s quests at romance and personal goals. 

Had Clooney managed to bring this side of JR’s life to life in a larger and more successful way perhaps his film could’ve become something more memorable, something a little more unique as it struggles to give the air time to its characters or bring the more special moments of JR’s otherwise rather conventional coming of age tale to the world as his actors all appear to be stuck in first gear awaiting the opportunity to jump to life in a paint by numbers feature that is nothing more than a minor distraction. 

Final Say – 

Providing very little in the way of memorability, heart or creatively, The Tender Bar is another sub-par effort from George Clooney behind the camera making one wonder whether his quest to be the director he clearly wants to be is beyond him. 

2 miniature bowling balls out of 5  

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