The Tender Bar— directed by none other than George Clooney — starring Tye Sheridan, Ben Affleck, Lily Rabe, Daniel Ranieri, Christopher Lloyd, and Briana Middleton is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Based on J.R. Moehringer’s bestselling memoir of the same name, The Tender Bar tells the story of J.R. (Daniel Ranieri and Tye Sheridan), a boy who grows up without a father and spends a lot of time in his bartender Uncle Charlie’s (Ben Affleck) bar. Uncle Charlie fills in as J.R.’s father figure. J.R.’s mother (Lily Rabe) wants so badly to give her son the opportunists she never had growing up, but it’s a constant struggle. J.R.’s grandfather (Christopher Lloyd) is outrageous and quirky in all the best ways, and the whole family lives with him in his home. J.R. grows into his own man as he pursues his own romantic and professional dreams with the guidance of his supportive Uncle Charlie.
I’ve always been a sucker for a coming-of-age story, especially films that manage to accurately cast a younger and older version of the main character and find a way to tell a story using those two actors really well. The Tender Bar definitely does this really well.
Ben Affleck’s character here couldn’t be more different from his most recent character in The Last Duel, and that just speaks to the unique level of versatility he has as an actor. One thing that is consistent between the two characters is that he is unsurprisingly hilarious! Nobody manages to convey humor — even in the most serious of situations — in the dry and direct manner he does in so many different ways.
Lily Rabe has somehow managed to successfully cross back and forth between the American Horror Story universe and heartfelt, emotional dramas like The Tender Bar. While AHS is on a whole other level of scary with witches, vampires, and murders, this film deals with the more real-life horrors of marital struggle, financial pains, family issues, and raising a child through it all.
Tye Sheridan has a couple of scenes where his character was able to share the screen with his younger self, played by Daniel Ranieri. That’s a tactic where filmmakers often miss the mark, but this doesn’t come off cheesy or gimmicky. The moments are really touching and make sense given their context, so that was a nice surprise.
Christopher Lloyd plays such a wholesome, albeit sometimes crude (which I was totally okay with), grandfather. He brings his signature offbeat style and one-of-a-kind voice to his performance, so his character is one everybody will love.
Briana Middleton might not be a name you’re all that familiar with just yet, but she certainly will be soon. She has some other exciting projects coming up including the Beauty and the Beast prequel series for DIsney+ with Luke Evans and Josh Gad, as well as a new film from Apple and A24 called Sharper with Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, and Justice Smith.
The soundtrack is one of my favorite parts of the whole film. Throughout The Tender Bar, I just kept falling in love with these songs. Some I had already heard and some were brand new to me. I just kept thinking about how my mom — who was a little girl in the ‘70s — probably loves every single one. These songs seem to be chosen so meticulously, and they each find a nice home in the narrative that fits into the overall narrative in a really satisfying way.
This is such a relatable but personal story that I feel many will share a pretty heartfelt connection. The script is really a cocktail of life lessons, and there are so many instantly quote-able lines.
About halfway through, it hit me that it’s called THE TENDER BAR because Ben Affleck is THE BAR TENDER, and I felt pretty stupid for a second that I missed the clever genius behind the title.
The Tender Bar is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.