THE TENDER BAR
Girls have Edge of Seventeen, Lady Bird, All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Juno, Little Women, and many more coming-of-age movies. Boys have Stand By Me in 1986, which is relatable for me. Boys also have superb coming-of-age films such as Moonlighting and Billy Elliot, which I do not connect with. Finally, The Tender Bar is a coming-of-age movie about a boy closer to the things I can relate to – friends, family, alcohol, bars, college, and women.
The Tender Bar is not an Oscar contender, but it is a funny, honest memoir of JR Moehringer, based upon his book of the same name. If it were pure fiction, the ending would have been more fulfilling, but there are enough amusing and memorable scenes and characters to make The Tender Bar worth watching.
JR is an elementary school-aged boy with a deadbeat DJ Dad on the radio in New York. Dad is only known to JR as The Voice. Mom is a struggling single mom forced to return to her father’s home in Manhasset, Long Island, in 1973. The rest of Dad’s kids and grandkids have also returned home to make it a full house, much to Dad’s chagrin. Christopher Llyod is amusing as the resentful, grumpy father who says and does whatever he wants. Llyod doesn’t talk much, but it is good to see him in the film.
The story focuses on JR and JR’s uncle, Uncle Charlie, played by Ben Affleck.
The forever young-looking Affleck reminds me of his character in Good Will Hunting 25 years earlier (1997). Uncle Charlie is a towering and formative figure in JR’s life. Affleck is great as the cool uncle teetering on the edge of being a sarcastic a-hole. However, he remains a sincere, likable character. Uncle Charlie teaches JR the unspoken “Male Sciences” – things JR needs to know – like where to put your butts, where not to put your money, and don’t drink your stashies, an amusing scene. The scenes when JR is a kid hanging out with Uncle Charlie and his friends, Bobo, Chief, and Joey D, are the most endearing.
Lily Rabe is the depressed mom who is not given a huge role but plays the stressed-out, caring mom well. Her sister and all the other kids remain in the background.
Tye Sheridan, the older JR, is overshadowed by his younger self, played by ten-ish-year-old Daniel Raineri. Raineri held his own against Affleck, Christopher Llyod, and Lily Rabe. Daniel Rainieri is the first thing you remember about the film.
The Tender Bar is a fun coming-of-age movie – and – the “Male Sciences” may become a thing. Excellent music from the era plays throughout the entire film. An enjoyable movie worth watching.