There are moments in George Clooney's The Tender Bar that make it a heartwarming watch, but it's meandering story-line holds it back from being something memorable.
Written by Elliot Lines
Based on the memoir of the same name, The Tender Bar tells the coming of age story of JR (Tye Sheridan). Abandoned by his father he seeks a father figure, which comes in the form of his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), Grandfather (Christopher Lloyd) and the many patrons at his Uncle's bar.
There are moments to like about The Tender Bar. The film most certainly gathers a little more pace once JR goes off to Yale, where you witness him starting to become more than the child within the first act, but this is where most of the problems arose. Due to its slow beginning it was difficult to get invested in the characters lives, creating an almost disinterest extremely early on.
There are darker elements to The Tender Bar, which cause you to guess where exactly this will go, but with characters like Uncle Charlie the film manages stays grounded. The film had opportunities to go in a total different direction, which may of made a more interesting watch, but decided to stay on theme and see the light in the characters on screen, giving those negative influences on JR's life the comeuppance they deserved.
The Tender Bar features a host of characters, all of which have very different personalities. Ben Affleck (Argo) gives a well rounded performance as Uncle Charlie, managing to bring together these different personalities, holding the family together. Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One) is the main focus, providing a performance that shows the troubles JR is facing and emphasises the struggles he goes through to become who he is. Lily Rabe (Fractured) and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as Mom and Grandpa respectively, provide us with the more eccentric family members, who are either too involved or have a almost total disinterest.
The Tender Bar has some heartwarming notes, unfortunately due to its sluggish first act, it never quite grasps hold of the key emotional notes that are usually part and parcel with coming of age stories.