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THE TENDER BAR: Ben Affleck does his best, but there’s not enough heart for it to be compelling

Amazon Prime Video

Directed by George Clooney

Stars: Tye Sheridan, Ben Affleck, Daniel Ranieri, Lily Rabe, Christopher Lloyd, Rhenzy Feliz & Max Martini

Woof, talk about a rough start to the 2022 movie year. Yes there’s a few bright moments in between, but this is a story that we’ve seen dozens of times and doesn’t do anything to change that up. At it’s strongest, The Tender Bar is a charming film that if it didn’t have some Hollywood regulars in it- you’d think it was made for the Lifetime channel. At its worst, it becomes a redundant uninteresting story that doesn‘t really have much of a story that it wants to tell.

A boy growing up on Long Island seeks out father figures among the patrons at his uncle's bar.

That’s the main issue with The Tender Bar, JR Maguire is not necessarily an interesting lead. He’s got a sad traumatic past with an absent father, but that’s about the only trait that makes him interesting. In fact the further we got into the story, and the more we trended away from his childhood interactions with his Uncle Charlie, and went more into his pursuit of a career of writing- the less interesting the film got. It was astounding watching my interest level in the first half when Affleck’s character was the primary focus as the loving Uncle Charlie whose trying to shape a good future for his lovable nephew that’s dad is a bum, just for it all to crash and burn in the last half- when the film relies on Sheridan’s adult version of said child, and we’re supposed to be interested in these quick snippets of his time and college and work struggles.

There’s a really good soundtrack to it, that’s the benefit I suppose of starting in that time era where nearly every song is made perfectly for film. The costume design was very fun when JR is a child, and actually has a dash of colour to the story. Like on a technical level, this is a fine movie it’s not the best one I’ve ever seen- but it also checks all the boxes to be technically pleasing.

Acting wise, Ben Affleck deserves all the applause and flowers being tossed at him here. He singlehandedly provides all the heart and soul for the film, and every single time he was on the screen you gravitate immediately to his presence. He’s capable of just providing all of his emotions with the smallest change in expression, or tone, Affleck long has been an impressive actor- and he displays it all here. Everyone else is fine, Daniel Ranieri does a really good job as child JR Maguire and I do believe there’s some more roles in the future for him. Lily Rabe and Christopher Lloyd don’t really have much to do in this film, and eventually just become only a part of it by name as we leave the family part of the story for the college story. While, Tye Sheridan does well enough and I truly believe that this isn’t his fault either- it’s not his presence as JR that made the second half weak, it’s just a complete drop in quality for the section he’s handed to run with.

In the end, The Tender Bar is a fine first film for 2022 but I’m bound to forget about it in a months time.


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