Movie review: The Tender Bar is a feelgood tale of talent and working-class grit triumphing

Directed by George Clooney, The Tender Bar is a charming bildungsroman that charts JR Moehringer’s love affair with books and writing, and his impossible ambition to read English at Yale
Movie review: The Tender Bar is a feelgood tale of talent and working-class grit triumphing

The Tender Bar

★★★★☆

The best writers, runs the cliché, had difficult childhoods, which thesis gets its latest outing in The Tender Bar (12A), which is based on a memoir by American author and journalist JR Moehringer.

The story opens in 1973, with young JR (Daniel Ranieri) and his mother (Lily Rabe) forced to move in with JR’s eccentric grandfather (Christopher Lloyd) when they are deserted by his father, a radio DJ known as ‘The Voice’ (Max Martini).

Craving a father figure, JR gets Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), the hard-drinking owner of The Dickens bar on Long Island, the walls of which are lined with booze and books.

Adapted by William Monahan and directed by George Clooney, The Tender Bar is a charming bildungsroman that charts JR’s love affair with books and writing, and his impossible ambition to read English at Yale.

Told in two parts, with the teenage JR played by Tye Sheridan, it’s a bittersweet account of a blue-collar environment that cherishes and encourages its young prodigy even as it knocks off his awkward corners.

Every young writer should have an Uncle Charlie, and Ben Affleck shines as the gruff literary inspiration who’s as happy to chug a beer with JR as he is to recommend some Conrad or Proust, and he gets strong support from Tye Sheridan and the always reliable Christopher Lloyd.

George Clooney directs with a light touch, allowing the characters all the time they need to advance the story, which is a feelgood tale of talent and working-class grit triumphing over circumstance and bad genes.

(Amazon Prime)

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