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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The Tender Bar 2021 * * * Stars


It has been about 7 years since I've last seen a movie directed by George Clooney. The Tender Bar is George's latest and if you grew up in the 70s/80s (I did), then "Tender" bleeds nostalgia like a 2-inch staph wound. It's in the tunes (Steely Dan, Pablo Cruise, King Harvest), the setting (Yale University and some musty tavern in Long Island), and the subject (a dude has aspirations of becoming a writer). As a writer like myself (and I like to think that I am), The Tender Bar struck a chord with me. Why do you think I started penning this review with ciggies and coffee on hand. 

The Tender Bar tells its narrative chronologically from 1973 till I suppose, the mid 1980s. It's coming-of-age personified and more persona arc-driven than plot-driven. The performances are darn good especially from Ben Affleck (barkeep and uncle Charlie Maguire) and Ty Sheridan (real-life novelist and Charlie's nephew, JR Moehringer). I'm an actual uncle (4 times over) and again "Tender" struck a chord with me. Just not in the same ray of light as some of these East Coat denizens did. 

The Tender Bar is the kind of film that could feel like a comfortable shoe for good old George Clooney. I mean this is Confessions of a Dangerous Mind without the spy and CIA mediums. Clooney has never been the most focused storyteller but shot for shot, he always brings a lightness and breeziness to the proceedings. He can direct from a keen, ocular standpoint and well, thank gosh his stuff is good enough to not float away. 

Watching a George Clooney flick, you feel as if you've been transported to all things past tense. Like life, people you meet tend to fade in and out and sometimes dangle like dropped loose ends. That's Clooney's vision as a filmmaker for better or worse. His characters although sometimes whimsically detached, complete that vision. 

"Tender" follows JR and Charlie and their bond as blood. Everyone else falls by the wayside including the famous d-bag father who was never around, JR's rattled mother, JR's would-be girlfriend, and the elder who is flatulent (Christopher Lloyd as well, grandpa). I liked The Tender Bar but would I put a "bid" on it as a masterpiece? Not quite. It feels somewhat unfinished even though its true story adaptation has already been finished.  

Written by Jesse Burleson

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