Review by Dan Skip Allen
The Tender Bar is based on the 2005 memoir of JR Moehringer adapted by William Monahan and directed by George Clooney. The film depicts the events of Moehringer's life growing up in Long Island, New York, and while he's hanging out at his uncle's bar.
Moehringer is portrayed by two actors in the film. The younger actor is Daniel Renieri, in his first film, and the older actor is Tye Sheridan (Mud, Ready Player One, The Card Counter). The younger Moehringer's story is the best as far as I'm concerned — he had the better arc in the film. The older Moehringer just basically goes to college and courts the girl he likes Sydney (Briana Middleton).
The film picks up with Moehringer's mom leaving where they live because she hasn't paid the rent in over five months. So they go back to live with her father (Christopher Loyd) and brother (Ben Affleck). The kid's father, a DJ on the radio, isn't in the picture. Without a father figure in his life, he gravitates towards his Uncle Charlie. Charlie teaches him about the ways of life, the ladies, and the ins and outs of a bar. Along the way, he meets a myriad of the bar's regular customers.
I can really relate to this film because of the bar aspects and not having a father figure to look up to. My father was an alcoholic and went out and spent his paychecks drinking all the time. When he had a regular job, that is. He didn't have much left for his family after that. On top of that, the abuse towards our mother was very similar to the way the father in this film treats women as well. As a young adult, I started hanging out at bars taking after my father. Bar life can be fun until you start going out every night drinking yourself into a stupor.
As far as the father figure angle, I had a few of those in my life as well, trying to replace my father who wasn't there for me or my brothers and sister. As a huge sports fan, I gravitated to the basketball coach and football coach I had at the high school I went to and worked for after high school. They were just there for me as a young man when I had nobody else to look up to. My first boss and yes my first bartender became father figures as well. They just seemed to care about me when nobody else did. I am forever grateful to these four men. I wouldn't be who I am today without them.
Affleck's Uncle Charlie is everything I would want in a father figure. He shows passion while also showing a little tough love toward young JR. He teaches him a lot while bartending at the local bar. The kid picks up quite a bit from all the characters. It's nice to see him become a sports fan as well, even though he's a Mets fan. A bar is like a melting pot of people. There are so many different types and people from all walks of life and religions. I learned a lot about life hanging out at bars and so did this kid. His uncle was a big part of that.
The Tender Bar isn't going to break any box office records or blow anybody away, but it has a story I could relate to about subjects that matter to me. Affleck was perfectly cast as the uncle with a heart of gold. He showed this kid the ropes of the bar and life, where he could take what he learned and put it to good use in the outside world. This may not be other people's glass of beer, but it was most definitely mine.
The Tender Bar hits theaters on December 17 and Amazon Prime on January 7.