Ben Affleck’s next feature is a sentimental, if not outright sappy, 1970s-1980s set coming-of-age feature helmed by director George Clooney. The Tender Bar stars Affleck, Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One), Christopher Lloyd, and Lily Rabe as the dysfunctional 1970s family trying to keep things afloat in their Long Island home.
Sheridan stars as J.R., a boy growing up without a father who’s under the wing of his bar-owning Uncle Charlie (Affleck). Charlie takes on the role of father figure, teaching J.R. about the “male sciences.” He cultivates J.R.’s love of reading and writing as a young boy and supports him by telling him he’s got “it,”—that is, the “it” you need to succeed in life.
All the while, J.R.’s mother (Rabe), struggles to provide her son with opportunities denied to her while trying to leave the dilapidated home of her “selfish old prick” of a father (Lloyd).
The film follows J.R. from childhood (the young J.R. is played by newcomer Daniel Ranieri) into early adulthood, with his uncle Charlie offering sage pieces of bartender advice along the way.
In addition to the obvious reference, the film’s title could also mean The Tender Bar exam, as J.R. tries to achieve his family’s dream of him becoming a lawyer. After heading off to study at Yale, he not only pursues the academic dreams of his combined family, but also his romantic dreams, namely with an upper-class peer named Sidney (Briana Middleton).
Another directorial work from Clooney, it’s definitely on the gushy feel-good side. The Tender Bar is written by Academy Award winner William Monahan (The Departed), and based on the Pulitzer Prize winning author J.R. Moehringer’s memoir of the same name.
The full cast features Max Casella, Sondra James, Max Martini, Michael Braun, Matthew Delamater, Rhenzy Feliz, and Ivan Leung.
The Tender Bar arrives in theaters on December 17 and Prime Video on January 17.